The Red Deer region appears to have avoided the brunt of a provincewide wave of job losses last month — at least on the face of the latest Statistics Canada figures.
Alberta’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate jumped to 5.3 per cent last month, up from 4.5 per cent in January and 4.4 per cent a year earlier.
Unemployment was higher in all of the province’s seven regions, except Red Deer, where it was unchanged from the January figure of 4.9 per cent.
The biggest increase in the number of people seeking work was in the Lethbridge-Medicine Hat region, where unemployment spiked by 1.4 percentage points from January to February, to 5.1 per cent from 3.7 per cent. The rate in Camrose-Drumheller was 1.3 percentage points higher, going to 5.4 per cent from 4.1 per cent; and Wood Buffalo-Cold Lake saw a 1.2 percentage point change, to 6.6 per cent from 5.4 per cent.
For the Calgary region, there was a 0.5 percentage point increase to 4.9 per cent from 4.4 per cent, with a similar change in the Banff-Jasper-Rocky Mountain House area and the Athabasca-Grande Prairie-Peace River region, which both went to 4.2 per cent from 3.7 per cent. Edmonton’s jobless rate ticked up 0.4 percentage points, to 4.9 per cent from 4.5 per cent.
The provincial unemployment rate was its highest level since September 2011, but was still the second lowest among the Canadian provinces, trailing only Saskatchewan’s 5.0 per cent. The national rate was 6.8 per cent, up 0.2 percentage points from January.
During the month, Alberta’s labour force increased by 5,700 people, while employment decreased by 14,000 positions. Full-time employment dropped by 6,900 jobs and part-time positions fell by 7,100.
Todd Hirsch, ATB Financial’s chief economist, said in his daily economic comment on Friday that a swelling of the ranks of Alberta’s unemployed was expected in light of the current low energy prices.
“While many employers appeared to be keeping workers as long as they could, by February the cost pressures finally forced some layoffs,” he wrote. “With oil prices remaining low in March, we can anticipate a few more unpleasant job reports in the short term.”
Hirsch noted that job losses were particularly acute in the resource extraction sectors, where occupations like engineers, geologists and the like were hit hard. But the retail sector also shed more than 10,000 jobs.
Meanwhile, the construction industry enjoyed strong gains, as did the health care and social assistance sectors.