Alberta employment rebounds to pre-oil slump levels, BMO report says

So many job seekers in Alberta have found work in recent months that employment in the province has rebounded to pre-oil price slump levels, according to a report released Friday by BMO Capital Markets.

Alberta posts best-ever quarter for job gains as jobless rate sinks 2.1 percentage points from high of 9%

BMO Capital Markets says Alberta's employment numbers have recovered to pre-oil shock levels. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

So many job seekers in Alberta have found work in recent months that employment in the province has rebounded to pre-oil price slump levels, according to a report released Friday by BMO Capital Markets.

A declining jobless rate in Calgary has helped the city in particular surge back into the top 10 on BMO's city performance rankings, according to the report by economist Robert Kavcic.

"For the record, the city was ranked right at rock bottom at the start of 2017," he says in the report.

Statistics Canada noted on Friday in its latest Labour Force Survey that Alberta posted 26,000 new jobs last month, most of them full-time, as the provincial jobless rate dropped to 6.9 per cent in the last quarter of 2017.

"Employment gains were observed in a number of industries, led by accommodation and food services, and by natural resources," the report said.

Finance minister Joe Ceci called the numbers "good news for Alberta." 

"It means our unemployment rate, which started the year at 8.5 per cent, is now 6.9 per cent," he said.

"That drop means more Albertans are working and that's good news for them. The statistics though, point to families and individuals getting jobs, so we know that more Albertans are out there supporting themselves and their families."

Frances Donald, a senior economist with Manulife Asset Management, says Alberta is making a comeback.

"Now, we should say this is still an economy that's hurting, that's still recovering from the oil crisis. But it's certainly healing much more quickly than many would have expected," she said. 

Alberta's unemployment rate is at its lowest level since 2015, University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe tweeted.

But for Alberta's main cities — Calgary and Edmonton — the rate is still 7.5 per cent, which is lower than only St. John's and Saskatoon.

And while total employment is now higher than the pre-recession peak, that doesn't mean the labour market has fully recovered, given that Alberta's population has also risen, Tombe said on Twitter.

Opportunities for students at the University of Calgary's Schulich School of Engineering appear to be on the rise, according to career centre manager Jenny Cruickshank.

In the last four months, 134 students have been placed in internships, compared to 86 at this time last year. 

There were 489 posted positions at this time last year, but this year the number of postings has already reached 758, she said.

"We've seen really positive trends with the industry," she said.

"I think students should be optimistic about what the energy sector holds. It's reinventing itself in a different way."

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