The latest labour force survey report for Alberta shows the province added 20,400 jobs in March. That’s the most significant increase in this province since 2014.
However, City of Edmonton economist John Rose warns looks are deceiving.
“Although we’re seeing good solid employment gains at the headline level, I do have some concerns about the quality of jobs that are being generated in Edmonton at the moment.”
Edmonton gained 6,400 in March. Rose however said the vast majority of those jobs are part time and in the service industry.
“Quite a strong, remarkable number for the province, good number for Edmonton, but I’d like to see a little bit of an improvement in the quality of jobs that the local economy is generating,” he said.
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The smoking gun is in manufacturing.
“Our manufacturing sector has lost a lot of jobs,” Rose said. “I don’t see any evidence of those coming back. Whereas, at the provincial level, we are seeing an uptick in manufacturing, so that’s a little disconcerting to see that kind of sector specific turn around at the provincial level.”
Where things have dried up is in the oil patch, especially in the northeast part of the province in the oilsands. Edmonton has a lot of fabrication plants and demand for machinery manufacturing, and metal fabrication to service the energy sector isn’t what it used to be.
“That had a very significant and direct impact on manufacturing in the Edmonton region,” Rose said. “More broadly I’m a little concerned that these jobs have not started to come back and I suspect there may be some issues in terms of relative cost of manufacturing activity versus other jurisdictions.”
Higher costs in Alberta are forcing manufacturing jobs elsewhere, both across Canada and internationally Rose said.
“In Alberta our wages and salaries are on average about 15 per cent above the national average. That’s a pretty significant handicap to overcome.”
The jobs report said the resource sector shed another 2,300 jobs, a decrease of 24 per cent from its peak level in 2014.