BY MARIO TONEGUZZI, CALGARY HERALD MARCH 7, 2014
CALGARY - The unemployment rates in both Calgary and in Alberta dipped in February as the province accounted for the “lion’s share” of annual national employment growth, according to Statistics Canada.
The federal agency reported Friday that the unemployment rate in the Calgary census metropolitan area was down to 4.7 per cent from 4.8 per cent in January while at the provincial level it fell to 4.3 per cent from 4.6 per cent the previous month.
Employment was basically unchanged in the Calgary region with a loss of 200 jobs from January but year-over-year employment was up by 3.5 per cent or 27,000 positions. In Alberta, there were 18,800 new jobs created from January, up 0.8 per cent, and year-over-year employment grew by 82,300 positions or 3.8 per cent.
It was the highest pace of monthly job creation in nearly three years and well above the average gain of about 6,000 since the end of the 2009 recession.
“Alberta’s better job prospects, if you don’t have one, and higher wages, if you do, continue to draw migrants from almost every other province in the country,” said Robert Kavcic, senior economist with BMO Capital Markets.
Todd Hirsch, chief economist with ATB Financial, said February’s job report puts to rest any lingering notions that Alberta’s labour market is shifting into lower gear.
“If anything, it may sound the alarm that the economy is galloping ahead too quickly,” he said.
Hirsch said Alberta now accounts for 87 per cent of all the jobs created in the entire country since February of last year.
Most of the new jobs in Alberta were in construction (23,300), retail and wholesale trade (7,300), and oil and gas (6,800). These gains were partially offset by a drop in professional, scientific and technical occupations (15,200), and health care and social assistance (10,600), explained Hirsch.
“Three months ago, Alberta saw a one-month drop of nearly 10,000 jobs. That led to some concern about an economic slowdown,” he said. “The longer-term trend points to anything but. With a falling unemployment rate and employment rising more quickly than the pool of available workers, the true worry could be that more Alberta employers will feel the pinch of labour shortages.”
Alberta’s unemployment rate is the second lowest in Canada behind only Saskatchewan’s 3.9 per cent which fell from the previous month’s 4.3 per cent.
Douglas Porter, chief economist with BMO Capital Markets, said the job gap between “powerhouse Alberta” and the other nine provinces has widened.
“Looking through the typical see-saw pattern in Canadian employment, there is little doubt that underlying trends are cooling, with job totals up a modest 0.5 per cent from a year ago and the unemployment rate seemingly stuck at 7.0 per cent,” he said. “We wouldn’t expect job conditions to improve markedly in the year ahead - the expected rotation of growth to exports and business investment is not especially favourable for job growth. But perhaps the biggest story in (Friday’s) figures is the extreme gap in job growth between Alberta and everybody else.”
Nationally, Statistics Canada said employment was little changed in February, and the unemployment rate remained at 7.0 per cent.
“There has been little overall employment growth in Canada since August 2013,” it said. “Compared with 12 months earlier, employment increased by 95,000 (0.5 per cent) and the unemployment rate was unchanged.”
On a monthly basis, employment was down by 7,000 positions across the country.
Sonya Gulati, senior economist with TD Economics, said contraction of jobs in February “caught us, and the market, by surprise.”
“However, we have become accustomed to significant monthly swings in the Labour Force Survey. In turn, it is becoming increasingly hard to accurately pinpoint what the monthly print will be,” she said. “Stepping back, employment growth in Canada has now stalled over the past six months. Some comfort will be had that full-time positions and the private sector have been holding up reasonably well beneath the headline.”
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