Labour Figures Suggest Long Road To Recovery

Labour figures suggest long road to recovery

By Mario Toneguzzi
Calgary Herald
March 13, 2010 8:37 AM

There was a glimmer of hope for Calgary job seekers Friday as Statistics Canada released its national labour force survey.

In the Calgary census metropolitan area, the number of employed people in February remained the same from the previous month and the unemployment rate fell to 7.1 per cent from 7.2 per cent.

The outlook for the near future is looking more positive, but the road to recovery will take some time and that weighs on the minds of students looking for jobs down the road.

Silvia de Somma, 21, is graduating this year from the University of Calgary, majoring in history and minoring in French.

“I technically have two more years left because I'm going into education, but I'm just kind of worried in general because you hear all these stories about how there's a surplus of teachers and that I'm not going to be able to get hired because nobody needs teachers anymore,” she said.

She's also looking at opportunities to teach for two years in Japan or Korea to gain work experience and an edge over other job applicants.

Romina Longhi, 21, who is majoring in history and in Italian studies, is also graduating this year and has applied to the faculty of education.

“I hope to get in,” she said. “I thought it was a great job because it has job security.”

In the Calgary area, the number of employed people was down 9,700 from a year ago. In Alberta, the unemployment rate rose by 0.3 per cent from January to 6.9 per cent. Across the province, there were 14,800 fewer employed in February compared with the previous month and 18,900 fewer than a year ago.

In February 2009, Calgary's unemployment rate was 5.1 per cent while Alberta's was 4.5 per cent.

“We knew it was going to take some time to start to see some stability come back into the labour market and we are seeing that,” said Elsbeth Mehrer, manager of workforce development with Calgary Economic Development.

“The fact is we haven't (seen) any real remarkable changes in these month-over-month numbers, but we are starting to see some gains in sectors that had been quite significantly affected in the recession.”

Alberta Employment and Immigration said most of the provincial employment losses in February occurred in the following industries: 13,600 in educational services, 12,200 in wholesale and retail trade, and 7,100 in agriculture.

The following industries, however, registered employment gains: manufacturing (10,500), and forestry, fishing, mining, oil and gas (6,600).

The road to recovery has been a roller-coaster ride for Alberta's job market and the Statistics Canada numbers suggest the monthly ups-and-downs aren't over yet, said Todd Hirsch, senior economist with ATB Financial in Calgary.

“But the downturn in the jobs market in February does not suggest a trend towards deteriorating economic conditions,” he said. “Monthly ups and downs are typical, particularly in a post-recession period, such as this, when economic growth is returning slowly.

“With improvements in foreign trade, rising oil prices, and better conditions in the rest of Canada and the U.S., Alberta's economy will continue to gain traction.

“Recently announced changes to the royalty regime could also give an added boost to employment in the energy sector.”

Statistics Canada said Alberta was the only province with a notable employment loss in February and the month marks the second month of employment declines in the province.

Alberta's recovery has lagged the rest of the nation and employment in the province, “while stabilizing, has not yet turned the corner,” said Pascal Gauthier, an economist with TD Bank Financial Group.

Nationally, the federal agency said employment rose by close to 21,000 in February, with large gains in full-time work partly offset by losses in part-time. The unemployment rate edged down 0.1 percentage points to 8.2 per cent in February.