Updated: Red Deer region unemployment lowest in Alberta

Chamber of Commerce questions whether numbers reflect the reality in the Red Deer region

Red Deer region’s unemployment is the lowest in the province, according to the latest statistics.

The jobless rate for the region was 4.4 per cent, down from 5.4 per cent a month earlier and 5.5 per cent a year earlier. It is a full two per cent lower than the provincial average unemployment rate and significantly lower than the national unemployment rate of 5.6 per cent.

Lethbridge-Medicine Hat (4.5 per cent) had the second lowest unemployment last month of Alberta’s seven economic regions, followed by Wood Buffalo-Cold Lake (5.1).

Calgary and Camrose-Drumheller tied for the highest unemployment at seven per cent. Edmonton was at 5.8 per cent and the region of Banff-Jasper-Rocky Mountain House and Athabasca-Grande Prairie-Peace River was at 5.2 per cent.

Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce interim CEO Rick More was surprised — and a little skeptical — that the region’s unemployment rate was so low.

“Usually, when unemployment is that low we have businesses really trying o get back to work and that’s really not been the case,” said More.

Unemployment statistics can be affected by so many factors that drawing firm conclusions as to what they mean is difficult.

“I’m a little cautious until I dig into it. It just doesn’t equate to what we feel is happening with our members.”

More said the oil and gas sector, which is a significant player and employer in the region, has been hard hit by the industry’s continuing troubles.

“I know of companies who have laid off an extensive amount (of employees) in oil and gas.”

Canadawide, B.C. had the lowest unemployment rate at 4.4 per cent last month, followed by Ontario at 5.4 per cent. Newfoundland had the highest rate at 11.7 per cent. The other provinces were as follows: Quebec (5.5), Saskatchewan (5.6), Manitoba (six), Alberta (6.4), Nova Scotia (7.1), New Brunswick (8.4) and Prince Edward Island (9.6).

Alberta’s employment picture last month showed the affects of low oil prices and a lingering downtown. Alberta shed 16,900 jobs last month, compared with November.

The numbers don’t tell the full story on a monthly basis. There were 36,200 full-time jobs lost, offset partly by an increase in part-time positions, according to Statistics Canada.

A year-to-year comparison is more encouraging. There were 30,200 more full-time jobs, compared with December 2017. Over the same period, the number of part-time jobs dropped by 8,600.

Not surprisingly, provincial politicians had different takes on the latest statistics depending on political stripe.

Premier Rachel Notley pointed out in a Tweet retweeted by Red Deer South MLA Barb Miller that the number of jobs in Alberta has been on the climb since mid-2016.

United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney was less impressed.

More questions whether the positive job numbers are reflecting the reality that many are seeing.

“On the ground, it doesn’t appear that way. I have just run into too many people who aren’t exactly clicking their heels.”

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