The pandemic continues to take a toll on the southern Alberta economy. Lethbridge-Medicine Hat region finished 2020 with the highest unemployment rate in the province.
“Even a few months ago we were the second lowest unemployment rate in the province, and we sort of pole vaulted ahead of everybody, unfortunately into the top spot,” Trevor Lewington with Economic Development Lethbridge said.
The December unemployment rate jumped to 10.5 percent in the region. In 2019 that number sat at four percent.
“That speaks to the impact of all those business closures and a lot of the job losses that have been realized across the region, so it is significant, it’s showing us the depth of that loss,” Lewington said.
Job losses for the region are widespread across many sectors for December:
- Accommodation & Food Services down 19.8 per cent
- Construction dropped 8.8 per cent
- Information, Culture & Recreation dipping by 28.6 per cent
Lewington said the main concern he sees in these latest numbers is how the region isn’t trending with the rest of Alberta.
“When it’s going in the right direction that makes us different and special, when it’s like this — when those numbers are getting bigger, they are getting worse when the rest of the province is starting to improve — that’s when we really have to dig in and try understand what’s going on,” Lewington said.
Lewington said as 2021 continues the southern Alberta region will see worse unemployment numbers in the short term, noting the effects of this latest shutdown that began in December won’t be included until the January stats come out.
He said there is also reason to be optimistic.
“We have had many inquires for future investments, there are lots of potential projects,” Lewington said.
He added the stability of Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge, as well as a strong agri-food industry could also help things balance out as the year moves ahead.