Varcoe: An old problem confronts a new minister — how to put Alberta back to work

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However, as businesses continue to reopen, the outlook should improve.

In Calgary, the jobless rate fell to 14.4 per cent, the highest rate among the country’s largest cities, while the region added 26,900 jobs.

Across Alberta, the number of people working went up by about 10,000 in August, the fourth straight monthly increase.

This is positive, although the province is still down about 164,000 jobs since February, before the pandemic shut down many businesses and an oil-price battle erupted between OPEC and Russia.

“What stands out is that Alberta continues to lag the rest of the country in the recovery,” said Charles St-Arnaud, Alberta Central’s chief economist.

“We continue to deal with the impact of low oil prices.”

The federal report noted the number of Canadians working in the natural resources industry tumbled by 9,000 in August, with 7,000 of the losses in Alberta.

Steep spending cuts made across the oilpatch this spring are resulting in job losses this summer. Photo by Darryl Dyck/Postmedia

That suggests the steep spending cuts made across the oilpatch this spring are now filtering through to the employment front.

And the jobless figures don’t include the 149,000 people who are considered employed but didn’t work any hours in the month.

The effective unemployment rate in Alberta sat at 18.9 per cent in August, third highest in the country, according to University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe.

“We are still in that phase of recovery where, as the lockdown measures ease, we’re seeing the return of much of the labour force,” Tombe said. “It’s still too early to know how much of the recovery we’re going to get.”

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