Edmonton

At 6.8%, Edmonton's unemployment rate in relatively good shape

While Alberta's unemployment rate paints a grim picture, Edmonton's rate is in better shape, according to the city's chief economist.

Newcomers help support the consumer side of city's economy, says chief economist

Compared to a year earlier, employment in Alberta decreased 21,200 net positions or 0.9 per cent, including a drop of 56,300 full-time jobs or 2.9 per cent. (Norm Betts/Bloomberg News)

While Alberta's unemployment rate paints a grim picture, Edmonton's rate is in better shape, according to the city's chief economist.

Statistics Canada released unemployment numbers for February that show Alberta's jobless rate is higher than Quebec's for the first time in nearly 30 years at 7.9 per cent.

Edmonton chief economist John Rose said in comparison Edmonton's unemployment rate is only 6.8 per cent, and is due in large part to people moving into the city.

"If there's any good reason for unemployment to be up it's because you're labour force is expanding and more people are participating in the labour force," Rose said.

Rose added the rate is high by historical standards, but the bright side is all those newcomers will help support the consumer side of Edmonton's economy.

He said Edmonton hasn't been immune to the economic downturn. Manufacturing, logistics and hospitality have all been hit hard by job losses.

Rose said Edmonton's unemployment rate is lower than other Alberta cities that are more closely tied to the energy sector.

He said Edmonton has been cushioned by its more diverse economy. He also credits major construction projects, such as the downtown arena, the Walterdale Bridge and the $8-billion Northwest upgrader in Redwater, with keeping construction employment strong.

As those projects come to an end, the number of construction jobs is likely to plummet unless the price of oil recovers.

He said with oil prices beginning to stabilize it may give the rest of Edmonton's economy a boost over the next year.

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