The Red Deer region is making significant job gains — but that’s not a big surprise as seasonal construction projects kick into high gear.
According to Statistics Canada’s labour market indicators, the June unemployment rate for the Red Deer region dropped to 5.9 per cent, compared to a previous 7.7 per cent in January through March.
Whether the local unemployment rate continues to be lower into the fall is anyone’s guess, said Scott Robinson, CEO of the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce. “We’ll see if it’s just a seasonal thing or if it holds in the back half of the year.”
Robinson feels the businesses climate is stronger and the economy is “reasonably healthy” in central Alberta.
Although the hospitality sector is still recovering from the pandemic, opportunities in the trades have been expanding with a labour shortages reported in some skills.
The average local hourly wage in the Red Deer area has risen to $24.85 in June, from $23.96 in the last quarter of 2022.
Despite some positive news for many Albertans, Robinson cautions that the economy could slow later in 2023 as the Bank of Canada is poised to raise interest rates again next week. The inflation rate is hanging on at 3.5 to 4 per cent, compared to the desirable 2 per cent or less.
“At the end of the day, if there is an interest rate hike, it will likely be the last one,” he predicted.
While some major projects could be temporarily halted as construction costs rise, and the housing market could also slow down with higher mortgage rates, Robinson expects Canadians will begin seeing interest rates decline in the first half of 2024 once inflation has been conquered.
Red Deer’s June unemployment rate is about the same as Calgary’s (5.8 per cent) and Edmonton’s (6 per cent), but a little higher than most regions of the province, which range from 4.7 per cent (Wood Buffalo-Cold Lake) to 5.3 per cent in Grand Prairie, Jasper, and Camrose/Drumheller. Lethbridge’s rate is 5.4 per cent.
Over the past 12 months, Alberta’s employment has grown by 2.8 per cent, above the national average of 1.9 per cent.
“A strong economy, talented workforce and business-friendly policies continue to attract job creators and investment from around the world,” said Minister of Jobs, Economy and Trade Matt Jones.
June’s numbers demonstrate Alberta has employed about 10,600 more workers, he added, with most of the job growth in the private and services-producing sectors.
In the first quarter of 2023, more than 50,000 people moved to Alberta, including almost 16,000 from other parts of Canada. Jones believes people are coming here because of the province’s “great jobs in our diversified economy, livable cities and natural beauty.”