July 22nd, 2024

Jobs rate getting better and better

By Collin Gallant on July 8, 2017.


The employment landscape in Medicine Hat is leading the province and, for once, localized figures that Statistics Canada deems unreliable, are better than regional numbers.

Unemployment in the Medicine Hat-Lethbridge region plunged to 4.8 per cent in June. That’s down 1.1 percentage point from the previous month, and 2.5 below June 2016.

The region averaged a rate of 6.9 per cent for 2016, but local economic observers often mused that the generally more stable Lethbridge economy was obscuring worse jobless numbers here.

Ryan Jackson is the general manager of Invest Medicine Hat, which provides economic development work for the City of Medicine Hat.

“There’s no doubt that we’ve drafted behind Lethbridge’s numbers in the past,” said Jackson

The federal government agency states that a 4.5 per cent Medicine Hat-specific jobs figure is not statistically valid due to insufficient data. The same figure for Lethbridge during last month was 4.9 per cent.

Moving under 5 per cent jobless rate also means a return to employment figures experienced prior to the oil patch slump that began in 2015.

“Anecdotally, the companies that we’ve talked to say they are looking for people and people are there to be hired,” said Jackson, specifically noting trade positions.

“Retailers are seeing a bounce … we started seeing that bounce in January, and now the statistics are bearing that out.”

On the ground in Medicine Hat, job placement agencies have said for some time that they are increasingly fitting workers in contact with employers who have been hiring more frequently.

Local businessman Richard Kerrison owns Fear Naught Trucking, which runs a highway freight route between Edmonton and the western U.S.

He has had a standing help-wanted ad since the spring, hoping to add a driver to his three-truck operation, but says he’s had trouble finding qualified applicants.

“I’ve been busy for three months and I can’t buy a guy,” said Kerrison. “From what I can tell, the oilfield has fired back up and guys are migrating back there.”

The Alberta-wide unemployment rate was 7.4 per cent, and Canada’s was 6.5, the same as Saskatchewan’s.

Overall, about 48,000 more Albertans were employed last month compared to June 2016, with the total number of jobs up in agriculture, mining and petroleum, utilities and manufacturing. Construction saw a decline, as did several service sectors, though overall that category was up.

Analysts use year over year analysis to account for things like the agricultural and construction seasons.

Across Alberta the employment rate fell in most rural regions, while the Edmonton region rate rose from 7.3 per cent to 8.2 per cent, while Calgary’s region stayed steady at 8.6 per cent.

Red Deer sits at 7 per cent, Drumheller 7.7 and Peace River 6.3.

Wood Buffalo-Fort McMurray showed a 7.7 per cent rate in June, but there is no corresponding number from 2016 due to that year’s wildfire evacuation.

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