Labour Force Changes Make Alberta Stronger and BC Wiser

Aug 13, 2012

The July 2012 unemployment numbers were released by Statistics Canada demonstrating numbers relatively unchanged from June.  Alberta remains at an unemployment number of 4.6%, Saskatchewan increases a .1% to 5% and British Columbia continues to float within a common average of 7%.  The Western Provinces remain fairly stable as our unemployment numbers remain relatively the same as at the start of the year.  However, in the first 7 months of the year we have seen the numbers behind the unemployment rates shift significantly, demonstrating shifting strengths of markets and future growth opportunity.

Many indicators for the west are in line with Canadian averages, such as shifts toward higher rates of full-time work over part-time but also a strong shift to temporary work over permanent.  The demographic shift, however, paints a picture different from that of Canada and each Western province.   According to the 2011 census, Canada has a population of 33.5 million.  The Alberta population makes up 10% of that total and BC 13%.   However, of the labour growth in Canada since January 2012, Alberta only enjoys 8% of these new workers and BC 12%.  Both provinces demonstrate a lower number of new worker growth in comparison to the size of the national population and in comparison to provincial growth in the last 18 months (since Jan 2011).  Since January 2011, Alberta showed 18% new labour growth down to 8% over the last 7 months, a sizable slowing.  In a labour tight market such as Alberta, the significant slowing is another indicator of concern in filling positions in all sectors.

Despite the slowing of labour growth, Alberta is doing a very good job attracting new workers in family age categories of 24-54 years.  Of the labour growth in Canada for this age category since January 2012, 18% have gone to Alberta.  This age group represents a pivotal group of labour that builds and strengthens new communities, drives home purchases, and consumer consumption in general.  This can be compared to BC, who attracted and retained only 3% of this same group.  Conversely, Alberta saw negative labour growth in the 55+ year’s group, whereas BC attracted 41% of all labour in Canada for this same 55+ age group.  The implications of these shifts over time can have a long-term impact, both positive and negative.  With a migration of mature labour out of Alberta years of experience and market understanding are also taken, although replaced by energized career building labour.