December a tough month for jobs in Calgary and Alberta

For Canada, it was the first monthly decline since April

December was a difficult month for Canadians on the labour front as the Calgary region, Alberta and Canada all experienced job losses, according to data released Friday by Statistics Canada.

The federal agency reported that 1,000 jobs were lost in Calgary region in December, which was also down 13,300 from a year ago. The unemployment rate dropped to 10.4% from 10.7% in November.

In Alberta, 11,900 jobs were lost in December, which was down 132,700 from a year ago. The unemployment rate dropped to 11.0% from 11.1% in November.

And in Canada, 62,600 jobs were lost in December and employment fell by 571,600 from a year ago. The national unemployment rate rose to 8.6% from 8.5% in November.

For Canada, it was the first decline in jobs since April

“Employment fell in industries most directly affected by new and continuing public health measures, including accommodation and food services; “other services”; and information, culture and recreation,” said StatsCan.

“By April, the initial widespread COVID-19 economic shutdown had directly affected 5.5 million Canadian workers, including 3.0 million who had lost their job and 2.5 million who were employed but had experienced COVID-related absences from work. By December, the equivalent figure was 1.1 million, including a 636,000 drop in employment since February and 488,000 more Canadians who were employed but working less than half their usual hours for reasons likely related to COVID.”

It said part-time employment declined by 99,000 (-2.9%) in December, led by losses among youth aged 15 to 24 (-58,000; -5.1%) and those aged 55 and older (-27,000; -3.0%). Self-employment fell by 62,000 in December, while the number of employees in both the public and private sectors was little changed.

“Due to both the continuing rise in virus cases to open the new year and the further curtailments of activity since the last survey, another month of job losses could be on the horizon in January. The weak jobs report, combined with the recent appreciation of the Canadian dollar, will put pressure on the Bank of Canada to ease monetary policy further. But with vaccinations underway, the central bank may choose to simply look through the current headwinds, under the assumption that brighter days are ahead,” said Royce Mendes, an economist with CIBC.

“Today’s employment result was very close to downbeat expectations, with even the focus of the job losses exactly as expected (restaurants). With restrictions broadening and lengthening since the December survey, we may well see another pullback in next month’s report. But the good news, such as it is, is that Shutdown 2 is imposing a much less severe economic cost than in the spring, especially in sectors not directly affected. On balance, we are unlikely to adjust our forecast meaningfully as a result of the jobs data (and other economic indicators from December earlier this week). Overall, the big picture is that the economy has proven to be a bit more resilient than many expected to renewed restrictions—good news—but those restrictions look to last much longer than expected—offsetting bad news,” said Doug Porter, Chief Economist with BMO.

“Tougher restrictions enacted by provinces to stem the spread of the virus resulted in heavy job losses in industries still reeling from the impact of the pandemic. Employment in high-touch industries (accommodation and food services, information, culture and recreation service, and other services) was almost 20% below its February level and has little prospect of improving in January due to ongoing public health measures. This gloomy outlook may have fuelled the labour force decline last month,” said Sri Thanabalasingam, Senior Economist with TD Economics. “The resurgence of the virus is hitting Canada hard. Sharp increases in caseloads and hospitalizations are leaving provinces with little choice but to impose or prolong restrictions on an economy that is but a shadow of itself. Quebec has already announced its partial lockdown will be extended through to February and others could follow suit. It will be a rocky road for the Canadian economy until vaccines can be widely distributed and normal life can resume.”

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