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Edmonton unemployment numbers dropping for ‘wrong reason’ says economist

WATCH ABOVE: The City of Edmonton's chief economist says the unemployment number is coming down in the city, but that it's coming down for the "wrong reason." Albert Delitala has the details – May 11, 2018

Edmonton’s unemployment rate held steady at 6.6 per cent in April, down just slightly from 6.7 per cent the month before. But the number of unemployed people in the Alberta capital remained above the national average, which was 5.8 per cent.

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Stats Canada said in April, Edmonton added 700 jobs.

READ MORE: Canadian economy loses 1,100 jobs in April, unemployment rate holds steady

These numbers come on the heels of what was a terrible first three months of the year, according to city of Edmonton economist John Rose. He said the unemployment number is coming down, but that it’s coming down for the “wrong reason.”

“More people are leaving the labour force and that’s not a good sign because obviously once someone leaves the labour force the probability of them actually migrating out of the city goes up quite significantly,” he explained.

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“Over the past three months we’ve basically undone all the job gains that we saw in 2017, so a very weak first quarter.”

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That exodus is showing up in other areas of the economy, especially construction. In a newsletter Rose released this week, he reported non-residential construction intentions fell in Edmonton by almost seven per cent quarter-over-quarter in the first three months of 2018, due to a 42-per-cent drop in industrial building permits.

“We’ve seen a pullback on multi-family housing units,” Rose said about the other side of construction: residential.

“The apartment rental vacancy rate is now stuck at about seven per cent, and it’s been there for over a year. That’s relatively elevated and so that’s discouraged further dedicated rental and condo development, so soft and squishy on the construction side.”

Rose is surprised at the rise in oil prices and said it’s good overall for Alberta — however, he says, because of all the pipeline problems, there has been a limited benefit as production is already outstripping capacity to ship to market.

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Rose expects the economy to grow this year, but not to the extent of when things were booming. He expects Alberta to be on a par with Ontario, Quebec and B.C.

“Alberta and Edmonton did very well in 2017 in terms of growth rate, but that was simply because obviously your base year was 2016, and 2016 was a disaster for Alberta.”

The Notley government is saying the Alberta economy is recovering. Rose agreed it is — but modestly.


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