Alberta's job market loses 17K jobs in December: Statistics Canada

Alberta's job market shed 17,000 jobs in December, according to the latest figures released Friday by Statistics Canada.

Losses in full-time work outweighed gains in part-time work

Alberta's job market shrunk in December of last year, according to the latest figures released Friday. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Alberta's job market shed nearly 17,000 jobs in December, according to the latest figures released Friday by Statistics Canada.

Hit hard by a drop in oil prices, the province saw a net decrease last month of 16,900 jobs, or 0.7 per cent, compared with November, as an increase in part-time work was far outweighed by a loss of 36,200 full-time positions.

In Edmonton, the unemployment rate was 6.3 per cent in December, up from 6.2 per cent the previous month. 

In Calgary, the unemployment rate was 7.6 per cent, down from 7.9 the previous month. 

For all of 2018, employment in Alberta rose 0.9 per cent as the province added 21,600 jobs. The provincial unemployment rate fell from seven per cent at the start of 2018 to 6.4 per cent at the end of the year.

All of the gains last year were in full-time jobs and were spread across a variety of industries, Statistics Canada said.

Still, there is concern the December numbers could be the beginning of a negative trend.

"We are seeing a huge drop in small business confidence in the last few weeks," said Richard Truscott, vice-president for B.C. and Alberta for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

"Often that's a leading indicator of what's to come in the rest of the economy."

Truscott told CBC News on Friday there is reason to be concerned about what the Alberta economy will be like in 2019. He said it's already being felt among the federation's members.

"For the first time in quite some time, more business owners are saying they're going to lay off people than are hiring," Truscott said.

"Typically in Alberta, we don't see that very much."

Truscott said a number of factors have contributed to the problem, including low oil prices, the sluggish housing market and the recent tariff war and trade deal with the U.S.

"Between all these things we're seeing, the job numbers, the low oil price, some other worrisome indicators, including the small business confidence declining, it's shaping up to be a very troubling year ahead."

The pinch isn't being felt as much elsewhere in Canada. Across the country, the unemployment rate stayed at its 43-year low of 5.6 per cent last month as the economy closed out 2018 with the addition of 9,300 net new jobs.

The jobless rate was at its lowest level since Statistics Canada started measuring comparable data in January 1976.

With files from the Canadian Press