Job losses not responsible for Edmonton's rising unemployment rate, city economist says

Edmonton's unemployment rate "will rise before it comes down" according to the city's chief economist John Rose.

'Bottom line, hang in there and be patient'

Edmonton's unemployment rate spikes to 8.1 percent (Norm Betts/Bloomberg)

Edmonton's unemployment rate "will rise before it comes down" according to the city's chief economist John Rose.

Compared to December 2016, the unemployment rate has risen from 7.5 per cent to 8.1 in January.

But the increase isn't because Edmontonians have been losing jobs.

"The rise in unemployment wasn't about job losses," Rose said. "It was all about the fact that almost 6,000 people entered Edmonton's active labour force. 

"One never wants to see the unemployment rate go up, but in this sense it's a bit of a positive sign that people perceive that there are opportunities in Edmonton." 

Rose said it's unusual to have that many people ready to enter the job market, but it's better than the alternative.

"From my perspective, it's not a bad thing," he said.

"The worst thing in the world you want to see is people getting discouraged and actually leaving the labour force, so if your labour force starts to shrink that's very bad news.

Growing labour force

"With a growing labour force, more people are looking for work.

"That means our skills base is deeper and broader and when we do actually see economic growth gain some traction, we'll have the people and the skills available to us to take full advantage of the recovery."

Growth will begin modestly towards the second half of 2017, Rose predicts.

Rose's optimism is due in part to the construction coming over the next few years and recent activity in the oil and gas markets.

Rose points to pipeline projects, as well as LRT expansion and the widening of Yellowhead Trail as a few of the major projects that will require skilled labour. 

Edmonton's unemployment rate is considerably lower than Calgary's which is sitting at 9.8 per cent.

During Alberta's recession in 2009, Edmonton's unemployment rate was 7.7 per cent.