Sandwiched between two cities with unenviable unemployment rates, Red Deer region appears to be bucking the trend.
At 7.6 per cent, Calgary had the highest unemployment rate out of 33 metropolitan areas across Canada monitored monthly by Statistics Canada. Edmonton is not much better — it’s seven per cent unemployment ranks third worst.
By comparison, Red Deer region’s unemployment is 4.7 per cent, which is not only the lowest among Alberta’s seven economic regions but is among the best of the nation’s 66 regions. Only 17 regions are the same or lower.
Statistics Canada senior economist Emmanuelle Bourbeau said more jobs were created in construction, health care and social assistance, accommodation and food services in the region over the past 12 months.
“I noticed some decline in scientific and technical services as well as natural resources,” said Bourbeau from Ottawa.
The low unemployment rate cannot be attributed to people simply giving up looking for work over the past year.
“From what I can see in the data it doesn’t seem like it because employment is growing in that period and the labour force is also increasing, which is good news,” she said.
In February 2017, 111,000 people were working in the region and last month that number was 118,000 — up about six per cent.
“I would say it’s a fast pace of growth. It would be considered good,” she said.
Over the same period, Edmonton’s job numbers were up 5.5 per cent and Calgary was at 2.9 per cent.
Why Red Deer region seems to have escaped the employment struggles of the two big cities is difficult to nail down. It could relate to the difference in the labour markets in the regions, Bourbeau said.
Red Deer region’s unemployment trend over the last few years mirrors Alberta’s economic struggles.
In February 2015, employment was up 5.5 per cent over the previous year. In 2016, employment plummeted 11.4 per cent and has been inching back up ever since.
Nation-wide, the labour market generated a second straight month of strong job gains in February with the creation of 55,900 net new positions, all of which were full time.
The surge followed an even bigger gain of 66,800 positions in January. The back-to-back results gave Canada its strongest two-month stretch of job creation since the spring of 2012 — and its best two-month start to a year since 1981.
The unemployment rate held firm last month at 5.8 per cent as more people hunted for work, the agency said in its latest labour force survey.
–With files from The Canadian Press