As oil patch sheds jobs, unemployment claims rise steadily in Saskatchewan, Alberta

Rail tanker cars used to transport crude oil are seen in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan on August 27, 2015. LARRY MACDOUGAL/THE CANADIAN PRESS

More and more people in Saskatchewan and Alberta are claiming unemployment benefits in the wake of Western Canada’s devastated energy economy, figures released by Statistics Canada Thursday show.

Saskatchewan and Alberta saw the country’s highest increases in people claiming employment insurance in February – Alberta was up 2.4 per cent over January, and Saskatchewan was up 3.5 per cent.

Saskatoon had the biggest increase among Western cities – the city’s unemployment rolls swelled by over five per cent in February, adding about 200 people to the 3,680 receiving benefits in January. (In February of last year, there were about 2,300.)

Saskatchewan’s EI rolls have gone up 39 per cent since last February, and Alberta’s have risen by 79 per cent.

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READ MORE: Oil and gas land sale rights down in Saskatchewan as industry struggles

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A fall in global oil prices has had a brutal effect on Canada’s once-thriving energy-producing provinces.

Earlier this month, a report by TD economists offered little short-term hope of a recovery for Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland.

“Together, 2015 and 2016 will mark the sharpest economic underperformance of oil-dependent economies relative to the rest of Canada since the oil crash of the 1980s,” the economists wrote.

They warned of widening unemployment in Alberta as the effects of energy-sector layoffs widened into the broader economy as people avoid spending, or leave the province in search of work.

Oil prices appear to have bottomed out, at least for now, but the best that can be hoped for is “a slow recovery beginning in 2017.

Elsewhere in the country, Oshawa and Peterborough also saw significant increases in residents on EI.

READ MORE: Hard-hit Alberta and Atlantic Canada pessimistic about economy: Ipsos poll


WATCH: Sat, Jan 30 – The economic downturn has highlighted a problem in rural Alberta that has traditionally gone unnoticed. As Jill Croteau reports, a community east of Calgary is taking the blinders off and doing all it can to find a solution.

Click to play video: 'Oil and Gas layoffs force rural homelessness to rise'
Oil and Gas layoffs force rural homelessness to rise



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