Alberta’s unemployment rate was one of the highest in the country in April as measures taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 forced many non-essential businesses to close temporarily, devastating the economy.
New numbers released by Statistics Canada on Friday show the jobless rate in the province spiked to 13.4 per cent in April from 8.7 per cent the month before.
Only Newfoundland and Labrador (16 per cent) and Quebec (17 per cent) had higher provincial jobless numbers.
“The unemployment report is one of the worst in Alberta’s modern history — we all knew that was going to be the case,” Premier Jason Kenney said.”What disturbs me the most is we’re nowhere close to being out of the woods.”
April marked the second month in a row that employment declined in all provinces. Kenney said Alberta has been hit on multiple fronts: “The northern floods. The terrible toll of the COVID pandemic. The global economic shutdown. The oil price crash.
“All of this together adds up to a cascade catastrophes like Alberta has never seen before. [Friday’s] Alberta unemployment statistics simply confirm the scale of that damage.”
Kenney said while the current fiscal situation is “undeniably bleak,” the province has greater capacity now to cushion the economic blow than it did during the 1930s Great Depression, which the premier said is the last comparable time “things got this bad.”
A total of 243,800 jobs were lost in Alberta in April. In Edmonton, the unemployment rate spiked to 10 per cent from 7.9 per cent in March.
In Calgary, the unemployment rate jumped to 10.8 per cent in April from 8.6 per cent the month prior, when it was the highest in the country — a title taken over by Windsor, Ont., in April, which saw unemployment soar to 12.9 per cent.
Statistics Canada also reported that 25,900 people in the Calgary area left the workforce in April — the largest decline in workers across all Canadian metropolitan areas.
“Frankly, I don’t think those numbers fully account for the job destruction that has occurred, but they give us some sense of the depth of the challenge that we face as Albertans together,” Kenney said.
President and CEO of Calgary Economic Development, Mary Moran, said she hopes these numbers will begin to turn around in the city as businesses start to reopen amid the pandemic.
“We are facing a historic challenge from job losses throughout the economy, and as distressing as the numbers are, the impact on people’s lives goes beyond the statistics,” Moran said.
“It’s encouraging to see some companies still hiring and we are optimistic that will accelerate as the economy begins to open up again after the lockdown.”
Nationally, Canada’s unemployment rate soared to 13 per cent in April compared with 7.8 per cent in March as the full force of the pandemic hit, translating to almost two million jobs lost.
It was the second-highest unemployment rate on record and comes on top of more than one million jobs lost in March, bringing the total job losses since the start of the COVID-19 shutdown to over three million, Statistics Canada said on Friday.
Economists had expected on average the loss of four million jobs and an unemployment rate of 18 per cent, according to financial market data firm Refinitiv.
Kenney cautioned there will be a “great fiscal reckoning” in the months and years ahead as the province deals with the massive debt being taken on to get through the current economic hardship.
“But until they pass — until those trials pass — we will provide the support that our people, communities and industries require to get through this.”
— With files from the Canadian Press