Average length of unemployment in Alberta has nearly tripled from 10 years ago, according to new study

The authors found the two largest increases in the duration people remained unemployed were tied to the financial crisis in 2008-2009 and from 2014, when the price of oil crashed, to the present.

School of Public Policy tracked duration Albertans were unemployed between 2000 and 2018

Unemployment in Calgary continues to be higher than the provincial and national averages. (Leslie Kramer/CBC)

The average duration of unemployment has nearly tripled in the last 10 years, according to an analysis by the School of Public Policy in Calgary. 

The analysis was prepared by Margarita Wilkins and Ron Kneebone and looked at the three-month moving average of the duration of unemployment from January 2000 to October 2018. 

"In October 2018, an unemployed person in Alberta was out of work for an average of 20.9 weeks," reads the report. "Ten years earlier, in October 2008, this same measure was 7.4 weeks."

Financial crisis and oil crash

The authors found the two largest increases were tied to the financial crisis in 2008-2009 and from 2014, when the price of oil crashed, to the present. 

"In the 15 months following the financial crisis, the average duration of unemployment in Alberta fell from a peak of 20.5 weeks in April 2011 to 14.2 weeks in July 2012," reads the one-page report. 

"It remained at approximately that level for the next two and a half years before a fall in the price of oil pushed it back up. In the 15 months since peaking at 25.6 weeks in June 2017, the average duration of unemployment has fallen by a similar amount as following the financial crisis, to 20.9 weeks in October 2018."

In October, the unemployment rate in Alberta was 7.3 per cent, with Calgary higher at 8.3 per cent and Edmonton beating the average with a rate of 6.2 per cent. 

Costs may not be fully realized

The authors say the longer periods of unemployment reflect increased difficulty in finding re-employment. 

"This latter effect suggests the possibility of permanently higher social assistance caseloads and permanently higher costs associated with other social ills known to be linked with longer spells of unemployment," reads the report. 

"From this perspective, many of the costs to be borne by Albertans because of consistently low oil prices may yet to have been fully felt."


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