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Alberta’s unemployment rate hits levels not seen since 1990s

New figures highlight Alberta’s economic troubles
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta has lost more than 20,000 jobs for the second month in a row. The numbers paint a bleak picture of the provincial economy, especially for those looking for work. But with the price of oil slowly gaining, some are starting to see signs of a turnaround. Sarah Kraus has more.

Alberta has lost more than 20,000 jobs for the second month is a row

New numbers released by Statistics Canada Friday, found that Alberta’s unemployment rate jumped from 7.2 per cent to 7.8 per cent in May following the loss of 24,100 jobs.

The numbers paint a bleak picture of the provincial economy, especially for those looking for work.

Dan Paquette was laid off from his courier job servicing the oil sands in May.

“When he laid me off, fortunately I was able to find work again right away,” he explained.

But that job, at a warehouse in Edmonton, was only temporary. The work has since run out and Paquette is already back on the job hunt.

“I looked on the internet, I really did. And there wasn’t really that much jobs for anybody out there.”

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According to Statistics Canada, several Alberta industries were hit by the losses, with the natural resources sector taking the biggest cut at 12,000 jobs.

READ MORE: Canada’s unemployment rate drops to 6.9% after 13,800 new jobs added in May

Even more troubling, Alberta’s 7.8 percent unemployment rate doesn’t even include Fort McMurray, where data wasn’t collected because of the wildfires.

The last time the numbers were this high was in the 1990s.

ATB Financial’s chief economist, Todd Hirsch, says things could still get worse.

“I think we will see that unemployment number crest higher over the summer and into the early fall.”

But Hirsch doesn’t see Alberta falling into the double digits this time like we have before.

As it stands, competition for every job is fierce. Express Employment Professionals said they received 180 applications for a job in just a matter of days.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in our applications so we screen harder. We don’t interview all candidates that apply, we simply can’t,” owner Jessica Culo said.

Recently, the employment agency has also seen a spike in the number of job opportunities – especially on the professional side. Culo said she hopes it’s a sign of a brighter future ahead.

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“It’s changing for the better right now, I think we’ve gotten through the very worst of it.”

In the meantime, she has one piece of advice for anyone that was laid off.

“Take a job – any job – just to keep working,” Culo said. “Because once you get out of the workplace – out of that environment – it puts you at risk for staying out of it longer.”

With debt piling up on his doorstep, it’s something Paquette is open to. He’s optimistic he’ll find work again soon.

“Even though the economy is down right now, you’ll find something. In the end, it always works out,” he chuckled.