Edmonton's employment picture continues to improve, even to the surprise of City of Edmonton chief economist John Rose who had anticipated a weaker performance in December.
"[The jobless rate] has come down quite nicely," Rose said Friday. "We're tied with Calgary at 7.5 per cent, and that's a very, very good sign."
In November, unemployment in Edmonton and Calgary was at 7.8 per cent.
December jobless numbers from Statistics Canada show Alberta and Quebec led the country in job creation, each adding more than 26,000 jobs.
Canada added 79,000 jobs last month, exceeding expectations and pushing the jobless rate down two-tenths of a percentage point to 5.7 per cent. It's the lowest level since 1976.
Rose said he expected Edmonton's unemployment rate would be stuck at around eight per cent due to the increasing size of the labour force, but that didn't happen.
Since the start of 2017, Edmonton has seen consistent gains in full-time employment, particularly in the areas of healthcare, education and some service sectors.
Those jobs tend to be in the public sector, which makes up about 27 per cent of all jobs in Edmonton, Rose said.
"This is why Edmonton has done reasonably well compared to most other parts of the province," he said, noting that public-sector employment continued to expand through 2017.
There were also employment gains in the financial, insurance and real estate sectors, he said.
Growth in manufacturing jobs remains slow
However, job growth continues to be slower in the manufacturing sector, Rose said.
"We have seen some employment pick up in that particular sector but we're still well behind the peak levels of employment in manufacturing that we saw back in 2014."
Rose believes the sluggish improvement in manufacturing employment is a direct result of the slowdown in the energy sector that began with the oil-price collapse of 2014.
Gateway Trailer Repairs in Edmonton started to notice things getting busier in October, and it hasn't let up since.
Company owner and president Aaron Beaupre said he's hiring new employees in all three of his locations in Edmonton, Calgary and Regina to handle the "drastic" increase in business.
"November and December have been phenomenal, almost back to pre-2013 days which were record-breaking days for us," said Beaupre .
Beaupre said his business, which does repairs on long haul transport trailers, is a good barometer of the economy.
"We'll see when the consumers start to spend, trucks and trailers move more because they're moving more goods," he said.
"We can predict what's happening in the economy, just based on how busy and how the spikes happen in our company. And it's pretty accurate," he added.
On Thursday, Finance Minister Joe Ceci said the government remains focused on diversifying the economy even though Alberta is continuing to show employment gains.
"Keeping our shoulder to the wheel on diversification is as important as cheering for higher oil prices," Ceci said.