Insights & Analysis

November 5, 2021

Weekly EconMinute—November 5, 2021

In this week’s EconMinute, we’re talking about October’s Labour Force Survey.

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It’s labour force day, and we’re breaking it down for Alberta.

Bottom line: recovery stalled in October as the province lost 9k jobs compared to September, led by a decline in accommodation and food services employment. The unemployment rate did fall but this was because fewer people were actively looking for work.

After nearing pre-pandemic levels in September, the employment rate fell in October as jobs growth faltered. At the national level, employment held steady (up just 0.2%) while, in Alberta, there was a slight decline. The employment rate now sits 1.3% pts below pre-pandemic levels.

Though the unemployment rate in October fell to its lowest rate since pre-pandemic (from 8.1% to 7.6%), October’s drop was a reflection of fewer people looking for work. Labour force participation decreased in Alberta from 69.7% to 68.9%. The same was true, though to a lesser extent, at the national level.

From an industry perspective, employment increases in retail (+10k) and business support services (+3K) were offset by jobs losses in accommodations and food services (10k). The loss of employment in these businesses (e.g. restaurants, bars) is likely related to the rise in cases and restrictions exemption program which was put in place since the previous month’s update. That said, the increase in vaccination rates that has resulted will hopefully help to lessen future impacts.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, due to the nature of hospitality jobs, most of the losses were part-time positions. Though there were 9k more individuals working in full-time positions in October, there were 19k fewer working in part-time positions. This trend was also noticeable in BC which saw similar restrictions put in place.

From a demographic perspective, prime working age women (age 25 – 54) were hurt the most. As of September, their rate of employment had reached previous levels, but, in October, their employment nose dived, now 1% pt below previous levels.

Overall, hospitality businesses are still well below pre-pandemic employment levels, especially in Alberta. Employment is just 78% of what it was pre-COVID. Meanwhile, industries like professional services and finance are now well above pre-pandemic levels, a reminder of the disproportionate impact of COVID on high-contact industrials—and the individuals who work in them.

One silver lining in October is the long-term unemployment rate—ppl unemployed for 1+ years—which has hovered around or above 2% since April, finally saw a notable drop.

That said, Alberta’s long-term jobless rate remains among the highest in Canada and is especially an issue for older Albertans & older women in particular. Those unemployed for 1 year or more represent 30% of unemployment in Alberta. Another 25% of those who are unemployed have been out of work for over 3 months. In other words, we still have a long way to go to a full recovery for all Albertans.

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