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Edmonton unemployment rate at 6.9% but ‘it came down for the wrong reason’: economist

FILE - In this Friday, May 19, 2017, file photo, job seeker Dalvin Jones, left, chats with Valmira Haxhimusa.
FILE - In this Friday, May 19, 2017, file photo, job seeker Dalvin Jones, left, chats with Valmira Haxhimusa. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File

Some mixed signals coming out of Statistics Canada’s latest report on jobs.

In Edmonton, employment was down by 5,000 in February 2018, but unemployment fell to 6.9 per cent.

That’s cause for concern to City of Edmonton chief economist John Rose, who said a lower jobless rate is usually good news.

“Unfortunately, in this month, it came down for the wrong reason — that is people became discouraged and left the labour force.

“That’s not what you want to see. You want to see people continuing to engage, continuing to look for work.”

READ MORE: NAFTA termination could reportedly result in loss of 85k jobs in Canada

Over the next few months, Rose expects Edmonton should see unemployment stay the same, as any job gains will attract more people to the labour force and keep that number even.

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The province came out in the positive, but it was a similar story when it comes to the labour force.

Just 2,000 jobs were added, as 12,000 part-time positions more than made up for 10,000 full-time jobs that were lost.

Fewer people looking for work is what pushed unemployment down 0.3 per cent to 6.7.

READ MORE: Canada’s unemployment rate down to 5.8% after surge in part-time work 

Rose said it’s not encouraging to see such big losses in full-time work.

“You really want to see significant growth in full-time employment because that’s really what boosts incomes and boosts people’s confidence in terms of making major expenditures.”

Both Calgary and Edmonton remain in the top four Canadian cities with the highest jobless rates, with Calgary’s unemployment going up by 0.3 per cent to 7.9.

READ MORE: Alberta’s unemployment rate drops to 6.9% as more people find jobs: StatCan 

Year over year, the numbers are looking better.

Employment increased by 12,000 full-time positions in Edmonton compared to last February, and over 62,000 full-time jobs across Alberta.

“It’s been a slow recovery over 2017,” said Rose, “but nonetheless, a very solid one in the sense that the quality of the jobs that are being generated is very good.”

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Another positive sign is that average earnings are up by nearly five per cent in Edmonton, an indication that the jobs that are being picked up are good ones.