Alberta’s unemployment rate continued its downward trend in the first month of 2021, dropping 0.4 percentage points to 10.7 per cent.
The Labour Force Survey, released on Friday, reflects labour market conditions during the week of Jan. 10 to 16, at which time COVID-19 health measures were still in place throughout Alberta, restricting things like in-person dining and social gatherings.
The survey noted that while employment held steady in natural resources, it fell in accommodation and food services.
“What we’ve been seeing so far since the second wave of COVID-19 actually started is we’re seeing increasing divergence in the economy between sectors,” Alberta Central chief economist Charles St-Arnaud said Friday.
“Traditionally, more client-facing sectors — so food and accommodations — are significantly underperforming. That’s what we’ve been seeing in Alberta and across Canada since October.”
St-Arnaud noted that industries that can work remotely or at a safe physical distance have performed “relatively well.”
The construction industry, for example, saw decent gains — up 7.2 per cent or about 15,000 jobs.
“It’s not clear whether it’s a trend that will continue going forward, but I think at this point we’ll take any positive, considering how bad 2020 has been,” St-Arnaud said.
“What we have to keep in mind is that continued divergence between sectors. There are sectors that are still significantly underperforming. The food industry is primarily one where there is need for support and it continues to be a drag on the general economy.”
Nationally, Canada’s unemployment rate was 9.4 per cent in January, up 0.6 of a percentage point from the month prior.
St-Arnaud said as we move through 2021, the hope is that vaccines will make it possible to lift more restrictions, allowing hard-hit businesses to reopen. However, he added caution in the shorter-term.
“There is still a lot of risk on the horizon. We have the new variants of the virus that are more infectious that could lead to further lockdown and more stringent lockdown later this year,” he explained.
“So we have to be very vigilant and the next three, four months will be very important for the outlook.”
Edmonton and Calgary see unemployment rise
In January, both Calgary and Edmonton saw unemployment rise slightly, breaking a six-month streak in which numbers were consistently declining.
In Calgary, the unemployment rate climbed by one-tenth of a percentage point in January to 10.6.
Edmonton’s jobless rate, meanwhile, sat at 11.9 per cent — up from 11.4 the month before.
Edmonton’s unemployment rate was the third-highest in Canada among the 34 metropolitan areas surveyed, behind Barrie, Ont. (14.2) and Peterborough, Ont. (12.8).
A look at Calgary and Edmonton’s unemployment rates amid COVID-19:
↑ Calgary: 10.8 per cent
↑ Edmonton: 10.0 per cent
↑ Calgary: 13.4 per cent
↑ Edmonton: 13.6 per cent
↑ Calgary: 15.6 per cent
↑ Edmonton: 15.7 per cent
↓ Calgary: 15.5 per cent
↓ Edmonton: 15.0 per cent
↓ Calgary: 14.4 per cent
↓ Edmonton: 13.6 per cent
↓ Calgary: 12.6 per cent
↓ Edmonton: 12.6 per cent
↓ Calgary: 11.3 per cent
↓ Edmonton: 12.0 per cent
↓ Calgary: 10.7 per cent
↓ Edmonton: 11.3 per cent
↓ Calgary: 10.5 per cent
↓ Edmonton: 11.4 per cent
↑ Calgary: 10.6 per cent
↑ Edmonton: 11.9 per cent
With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News.