EDMONTON – Alberta’s job market continues to look grim as the unemployment rate jumped again in February.
The province’s unemployment rate now sits at 7.9 per cent, according to Statistics Canada’s latest numbers, which is a 2.5 per cent increase from a year ago. In other words, that is a loss of 21,200 net positions or 0.9 per cent, including a drop of 56,300 full-time jobs or 2.9 per cent.
The unemployment rate increased by 0.5 per cent from January to February but Statistics Canada suggested the increase was caused by more people looking for work.
The City of Edmonton said the region gained 1,300 new jobs in February 2016. A release from the city said employment opportunities in education, professional services and finance were enough to offset job losses in construction, retail and hospitality.
Over the last 12 months, the Edmonton Census Metropolitan Area has added about 25,000 positions, a city release said.
Edmonton’s Chief Economist John Rose explained the numbers show a sharp contrast between Edmonton and the rest of Alberta.
“Unemployment in Edmonton is up not because of job losses but because people continue to come to Edmonton seeking work,” he said.
“We gained 25,000 jobs in the last 12 months. Calgary lost 20,000. This reflects the diversity and resilience of Edmonton’s economy.”
Watch below: Edmonton bucks the trend when it comes to unemployment numbers
A total of 2,300 jobs were lost across the country in February, pushing the unemployment rate up by 0.1 per cent for a third month in a row to 7.3 per cent.
B.C was the only province to add jobs last month.
Barry Heinemann has been spending a lot more time on his ranch in Strathmore these days. The independent contractor hasn’t been able to find work in his field as a petroleum surface land agent.
“I last turned a wheel the end of May last year. I was supposed to go to a part-time gig but because of budget cuts and stuff like that, they didn’t take me.”
Heinemann’s been forced to find other ways to pay the bills.
“I had to sell some cows this winter to cover bills. I’m desperate to try and hold on to my tractor. I’m behind on it.”
Pastor John Van Sloten of New Hope Church in Calgary has focused his sermons on unemployment and feelings of uncertainty.
“Feeling worrisome…’How am I going to feed my family? What am I going to fill my day with? Who am I?’ Much of who we are and our culture…rightfully…is what we do,” Van Sloten said.
He said worrying doesn’t help and suggested trying to focus on the positive.
“There are lessons in a time of great need. You realize that your priorities are a bit out of wack. When all you worry about is the clothes you wear to your job and that took over, in terms of priority with your family or in terms of your health. So it’s a real wake up call,” Van Sloten said.
There is a glimer of hope in some careers. The City of Calgary has 50 active job postings. ATB Financial is also still hiring and says it’s redeveloping some positions as well.
“We’re looking to get more people that are capable of supporting us in a digital and mobile environment. So we’re really working hard to anticipate and adapt to the changing marketplace,” Lorne Rubis, the chief people officer for ATB Financial, said.
Change is the word in Alberta’s market.
“Our history is about pioneering. We’re going to rebound just fine. We’re going to retake this time, why waste a crisis? That’s the way we look at it. It’s a time to double down on Alberta and reinvent ourselves,” Rubis said.
Heinemann is keeping an open mind, even if it means moving from his ranch.
“I’ve been applying with my company for jobs in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, BC,” Heinemann said. “But the problem is there is so many of us now unemployed, that when you do send in a bid…there’s 300 of them.”
During Monday’s throne speech, Alberta’s NDP government stayed the course set in the budget last fall, including more support for Albertans to upgrade their skills.
Experts predict the province’s jobless rate will peak at eight per cent later this year before beginning to drop.
“For far too long our province has been over-dependent on a single commodity, a single price and a single market,” Alberta’s Economic Development and Trade Minister Deron Bilous said. “Our government is working hard to build an economy that is resilient to energy price swings. Our jobs and growth plan is focused on investing in needed public infrastructure, making over $2 billion in capital available for businesses, supporting training and education, developing value-added industry, getting pipelines built and opening new markets for our products.
“In tough times, Albertans pull together. Our plan to diversify the economy while supporting jobs and families through the downturn will help Alberta emerge stronger than ever.”