The latest job numbers from Statistics Canada are disappointing, said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, but he’s expecting the situation will soon turn around.
The agency reported that Canada lost 71,200 jobs last month and the unemployment rate rose four-tenths of a percentage point to 5.9 per cent.
In Alberta, the unemployment rate rose to 7.2 per cent from 6.7 per cent. Jobs fell by 18,000, led by wholesale and retail trade.
In Edmonton, unemployment went up to 7.7 per cent from 7.1. In Calgary, it fell slightly from 7.2 per cent to 6.9.
“We’re always disturbed to hear about any job losses in the economy,” Kenney told reporters Friday.
“We took over an economy in Alberta here that I think was basically in recession and had gone through a four-year job crisis, and I always knew we were not going to be able to turn that around overnight.”
The United Conservative premier, elected in April, said the critical problem is bottlenecks in getting Alberta oil to market via pipeline or rail, forcing the province to dictate curtailment on production to keep the price from plummeting.
He expects that will soon be changing, that more oil will be getting out the door in 2020, which he said will lift not only the industry, but also the broader economy.
“I believe we are going to reach a turning point in 2020.”
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to the British Columbia coast is underway, and Kenney noted there’s progress on the Enbridge Line 3 project from Alberta to Wisconsin.
Industry incentives will also see more oil shipped by rail, he said.
“We should be producing and shipping more oil than ever, and that should help incent additional investment.”
Opposition NDP trade critic Deron Bilous said the numbers show Kenney is taking the economy in the wrong direction by cutting public sector jobs and services to balance the budget, while reducing corporate income tax with no obvious benefit to jobs numbers.
“It’s more clear than ever that Premier Kenney and the UCP’s risky experiment to hand over billions of dollars to corporations has failed Albertans.”
It was the second sobering economic announcement for Alberta this week.
On Tuesday, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the province’s rating to Aa2 stable from Aa1 negative, citing concerns over its reliance on non-renewable resources _ mainly oil.
It also warned that Alberta has a high “environmental risk,” with its carbon intensive oil and gas sector leaving it susceptible to costly wildfires and floods.
Kenney said Friday he doesn’t believe analysts are giving Alberta due credit for progress reducing its environmental footprint.
In a radio interview on Calgary’s CHQR on Wednesday, Kenney also said the Moody’s report is symptomatic of a broader politicized fight.
“Increasingly, financial institutions — and this includes apparently Moody’s — are buying into the political agenda emanating from Europe, which is trying to stigmatize development of hydrocarbon energy,”Kenney said.
“And I just think they are completely, factually wrong.”
Bilous urged Kenney to use the Moody’s report to take off ideological blinders, diversify the economy and stop trafficking in “environmentalist conspiracy.”
Different picture in Edmonton
The pendulum swung the other way in Edmonton.
“The November numbers for Edmonton were reasonably robust,” said John Rose, the chief economist for the City of Edmonton. “We actually picked up 2,400 new positions during the month of November. This is the second month in a row that we’ve seen job gains.
Year over year, however, tells a different story.
“We’re still down almost 12,000 jobs from the period in November of 2018. We’re in a bit of a hole and we’ve got to dig ourselves out, but the numbers were reasonably good.”
He credits a more diverse economy in Edmonton because of both manufacturing and the public sector. Rose in the forecast he published in September predicts GDP growth in Metro Edmonton at 0.5 per cent this year, growing to 1.5 per cent in 2020, and rebounding to over 2 per cent in 2021.
Rose is anticipating across the board public sector job losses next year in anticipating 1.5 per cent economic activity.
“That could hurt the city’s outlook, but at this point I’m expecting that while it won’t be brilliant, it’ll be better in 2020.”