Alberta men under 25 and over 55 face highest unemployment rates, says StatsCan

The job market in Alberta remains stalled, with younger males and men nearing retirement bearing the brunt, according to new numbers released by Statistics Canada.

Job market in province stagnates, adding just 1,200 full-time jobs in August

The oil and gas sector was among those industries that lost the most jobs in August, according to a report from Statistics Canada. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The job market in Alberta remains stalled, with younger males and men nearing retirement bearing the brunt, according to new numbers released by Statistics Canada.

The province added 1,200 full-time jobs last month but lost 600 part-time positions, while the unemployment rate hit 7.2 per cent, up from 7.0 in July.

Employment growth has remained mostly flat in Alberta over the past months, but continued population gains have stalled recovery, according to University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe.

"The fraction of people who are employed has been declining. That gap today is equivalent to about 52,000 jobs," Tombe said. "That is, we need about 52,000 more Albertans to be employed to get back to the employment rate that we had prior to the recession.

"And that gap has been growing over the past many months from a narrow point of about 40,000, so it's increased pretty significantly as the recovery has stalled over the past little while."

University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe provided this graph showing how Alberta's growing population has contributed to a gap in employment needed to meet demand. (Trevor Tombe)

Tombe said that reported unemployment figures may even be worse than they appear, as the reported numbers do not capture those Albertans who have given up looking for work.

"What we've seen in Alberta, the slight decline in that participation rate means the unemployment rate hasn't risen as much as it would have had people continued looking," Tombe said. "So the labour market, or the unemployment rate deterioration recently, is worse than the headline rate suggests. It's fallen by roughly twice what the headline unemployment rate looks like."

Tombe says the unemployment rate is worse than it initially appears, as the rate does not take into account those Albertans who have stopped looking for work. (Trevor Tombe)

Unemployment rates in the province are also significantly higher for certain demographics. 

Males aged 15 to 24 are facing an unemployment rate of 16 per cent compared with 10.9 per cent of females in the same demographic.

"Their employment rate, young men, I mean, is as down today as much as it was at the worst point in the recession, and they haven't seen their recovery start at all," Tombe said. "We haven't really been having a conversation on how we can better expand opportunities for apprenticeships or skills training and things like that."

Males in the 55-plus age group are also seeing considerably higher rates in unemployment compared with females, at a rate of 9.8 per cent to 3.4 per cent.

"Older male workers are also seeing a deterioration, those over the age of 55," Tombe said. "For them, maybe the issue is not retraining but providing a bridging program into retirement."

Tombe says the latest Statistics Canada data show that young men continue to see no recovery, while older men have seen 'systematic deterioration.' (Trevor Tombe)

Tombe said any government policy change will have difficulty kick-starting an economy the size of Alberta in the short-term, especially given market access concerns surrounding the price of oil and this year's curtailments.

"Business confidence and consumer confidence just fell off a cliff in January, and we're starting to see that lack of confidence largely around pipeline issues," Tombe said. "That does have these broader implications for employment in the province, and this is consistent with many other data points as well.

"There's really not much that the Alberta government can do, or even the federal government can do in the short term."

At large, Canada saw a surge of 81,100 new jobs in August, the bulk of which were part-time. 

The unemployment rate in August remained at 5.7 per cent nationwide.

With files from Tahirih Foroozan


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