UCP and NDP spar over latest Alberta employment figures

While Alberta, particularly its two big cities, continues to see higher unemployment rates, the province still boasts the highest employment rate in the country.

Unemployment rate remains stubbornly high in two biggest cities, but province also has highest employment rate

Jason Kenney and Rachel Notley highlighted different views in light of recent Statistics Canada employment numbers. (Canadian Press)

New statistics out today show the unemployment rate in Alberta dropped slightly from the previous month and puts Alberta fourth among the provinces for highest rate. 

Unemployment in Calgary and Edmonton remain stubbornly high, with Calgary sitting at 7.7 per cent and Edmonton at 7.1 per cent — the second and third highest metropolitan rates, respectively.

But as University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe was quick to point out on Twitter, that number in isolation doesn't tell the whole employment story. 

The trend is "concerning," he wrote, with employment levels almost at the same level as they were at the bottom of the recession. 

But the employment rate in the province leads the country.

And the participation rate is also the highest among the provinces, meaning more people are either working or actively seeking work in Alberta. If more people are seeking work, that drives up the unemployment rate.

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If people stop looking for work, that can cause the unemployment rate to drop, but is obviously not a good sign. 

Other factors like age and sex also skew the numbers up or down. 

Kenney and the numbers

Still, as analyzed previously by CBC News, these kinds of numbers are political cat nip, despite their lack of precision. That's particularly true during an election campaign.

UCP Leader Jason Kenney held a news conference directly tied to the latest employment figures on Friday. 

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"The average duration of unemployment for a jobless Albertan has tripled under the NDP from seven to 23 weeks," he said. 

In a familiar script on the campaign trail, Kenney says the blame shouldn't be placed on the price of oil but on bad government policies like taxes and regulations.

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"Behind these numbers lie real people's live, people who have been devastated. People who have lost their homes and their hope. People who have lost their small businesses and many others who are barely holding on."

Notley and the numbers

Speaking to reporters after a rally, NDP Leader Rachel Notley said her party is focused on job creation and put a positive spin on today's figures. 

"We're very focused on job creation and, as you know, there was a net loss. But we actually saw growth in full-time jobs, which is a good sign," she said. 

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Notley also highlighted the NDP plan to diversify the energy economy by doing more upgrading in Alberta. 

"We have a plan, and it is not a plan that is built on a great big corporate tax cut combined with a big cut in pay for people who work overtime," she said. 

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About the Author

Drew Anderson

Drew Anderson is a web journalist at CBC Calgary. Like almost every journalist working today, he's won a few awards. He's also a third-generation Calgarian. You can follow him on Twitter @drewpanderson. Contact him in confidence at