Nearly three-quarters of us ‘participate’

Dec 10, 2014

If you’re an Albertan over the age of 15, you’re more likely to participate in the labour market than other Canadians, according to data collected as part of Statistics Canada’s monthly job market survey.

The participation rate measures the number of adults that are either working or activity looking for work. Alberta’s participation rate is 72.6%—the highest of all provinces by a considerable measure and nearly seven percentage points higher than the Canadian average.

Over the last 30 years, Alberta’s participation rate has always outpaced the national average. It crested at a record high of 75.3 in October of 2008—not a coincidence since this was the peak of the last economic boom prior to the downturn in 2009.

A high participation rate suggests a strong labour market, which is reflected in other measures such as job creation and average wages, both of which remain strong in Alberta. A high rate also reflects the demographics of our province. Albertans are, on average, younger than residents of any other province. That means there are more people of usual working age and relatively fewer retirees.

But a high participation rate also has a dark side. Some adults may wish not to work outside the home, such as senior citizens, students or parents who would prefer to be full-time caregivers. High living expenses in Alberta may actually draw some people into employment, even if they’d prefer not to be working.
Todd Hirsch • Chief Economist