The Red Deer area had the biggest employment gains in Alberta in July compared to the same time last year.
According to Statistics Canada, the area’s unemployment rate fell 4.2 per cent to 5.8 per cent last month. In July 2016 the rate was 10 per cent.
“It’s nice to see a bit of recovery. Red Deer deserves that bump no question. We’ve been hit hard over the last couple of years. I think this is the beginning of some good news,” said Robin Bobocel, CEO with Red Deer &District Chamber of Commerce Friday.
At 5.8 per cent, the Red Deer area tied with the Banff-Jasper-Rocky Mountain House and Athabasca-Grande Prairie-Peace River region. Lethbridge-Medicine Hat had the lowest rate at 4.1 per cent, a 3.5 per cent drop.
The provincial unemployment rate was 7.8 per cent, down half a per cent from July 2016.
Edmonton was the only region that saw its unemployment rate increase year-over-year to 8.8 per cent from 7.8.
Further analysis is needed to know why Red Deer saw such a drop in unemployment. It’s likely due to the oil and gas sector, said Bobocel who has seen more industry help wanted signs locally.
“I think there’s a disproportionate share of (oil and gas) service sector based in the area, or has activity in the area, so if there’s a little bit of an improvement we’re going to feel it more than others. And, conversely, if there’s shrinkage in that sector then we feel it harder, too.”
Statistics show the labour force shrank in the Red Deer area since last July.
“The population has increased, but the labour force decreased year-over-year. Does that mean we’ve lost some skilled labour in the region? They’ve moved away because of the recession and aren’t coming back, which would help the unemployment numbers.”
Bobocel also wanted to know if the rate included both full- and part-time jobs.
“I think overall there’s been an increase in full-time positions created across the country. I’m not sure where we’re at in the region.”
He said it’s important to remember the employment picture in Alberta is not good despite the latest statistics.
“Good for us that our unemployment rate is lower, but as a province we’re still losing jobs.”