The southern Alberta flood in late June is being partly credited for the province’s surprisingly strong creation of 16,600 new jobs in July and its seasonally adjusted jobless rate decline to 4.5 per cent from 5.0 per cent the previous month.
ATB Financial economist Todd Hirsch said the flood may also provide a “plausible” explanation for why Calgary’s unemployment rate rose to 5.2 per cent in July from 5.0 in June (while cautioning that city numbers are based on small survey samples).
“Businesses were closed and remained closed for the month so those people were out of work. Some of those businesses are still closed,” he said.
“Meanwhile, people from Edmonton and other parts of the province have been coming to Calgary to help with the cleanup, so that’s one possible reason for the numbers we’re seeing.”
He said he expects the jobless rates to return to normal when August numbers are released next month.
Jeff Gaulin, marketing vice-president for Calgary-based Tervita Corp., said the company had 750 staff and contractors working on the flood-related cleanup of Stampede Park, the Saddledome and the teetering Bonnybrook railway bridge in July, plus about 300 people doing similar work in the High River region.
“A good number of those jobs would be people who were already employed by Tervita but for projects like this we do a significant amount of hiring,” he said.
“It’s the cascade effect that’s quite positive in terms of the economy although, obviously, not the type of work people like to see, as it’s disaster related.”
Alberta and Saskatchewan remain the hot job markets of the Canadian economy with employment growing by 3.0 and 3.9 per cent, respectively, over the last 12 months. Saskatchewan’s July jobless rate of 4.0 was the best in the land, followed by Alberta. Prairie gains contrasted with the national picture, however, as Canada posted a loss of 39,400 net jobs in July versus June, the second consecutive month-over-month decline.
The public sector and youth accounted for the biggest share of the losses. The official unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 7.2 per cent.
A Calgarian who says she wouldn’t mind a little rise in the local jobless rate is Kim Mosher, general manager of the Quarry Park Baton Rouge restaurant that opened two years ago.
In an online ad, the company says it needs “hard-working individuals” and adds: “Bring us your current pay stub. If hired, we will pay you $2 more per hour than (where) you are now. That’s $4,000 more a year to catch up on bills or take a vacation or two.”
Mosher said it’s very difficult to retain staff because the market is so competitive. She said kitchen managers are demanding and getting $50,000 to $70,000 per year, salaries close to what a GM might receive.
“We’ve got to be competitive and we’re willing to be competitive,” she said. The restaurant has about 30 employees but could use four or five more.
Statistics Canada noted Friday that six provinces sustained a net drop in employment in July, with the biggest fall in Quebec where 30,400 jobs were lost.
Alberta’s adjusted total employment rose to 2.2 million workers in July, up 65,000 from July 2012.
The increase came despite the loss of 9,500 jobs in the oil and gas sector and 4,900 jobs in construction from a year ago – made up for by gains from the service side of the economy, including professional and technical, retail and wholesale trade and information, culture and recreation.
The national setback, which followed a much smaller retreat in May, all but wipes out hope that April’s unusual surge of 95,000 added jobs might have been signalling an upward trend for the Canadian economy.
Statistics Canada said with the latest result, employment growth has averaged a meagre 11,000 a month during the first half of 2013, far less than the 27,000 average gain realized during the second half of 2012.
Analysts say the economy needs to create between 15,000 and 20,000 new jobs each month just to keep up with population growth.
The tally for the past 12 months is more impressive with 226,000 new jobs created, but the government agency noted that part-time work rose at twice the speed of full-time.
The Bank of Canada, and the vast majority of economists, have anticipated slow economic growth during the second quarter of this year, which ended in June, with the economy expected to kick into a higher gear in the third quarter. July’s jobs report suggests the rebound may be a little longer off, however.
Nationally, job losses were disproportionately bunched in the public service, which shed a whopping 74,000 workers in July, with big declines in health care, social assistance and in public administration.
Private employers actually added 31,400 jobs during the month.
Young Canadians also bore the biggest burden of the losses, as workers in the 15-24 age group saw their numbers diminish by 45,600.
Dan Healing, Calgary Herlad
Published: Saturday, August 10, 2013