Alberta's unemployment rate still relatively high

ATB Financial's Economics & Research Team January 7, 2019
Alberta's unemployment rate still relatively high
For the first time in three decades, Alberta’s annual average unemployment rate was above the national number for a third consecutive year in 2018 (6.7 per cent versus 5.8 per cent). The last time the annual unemployment rate was higher in Alberta than in the country as a whole was in 1988 (8.0 per cent versus 7.8 per cent).

As was the case in 1986-1988, troubles facing our oil patch explain the high rates of unemployment that have been plaguing Alberta over the last three years. Unfortunately, ongoing pipeline capacity constraints are likely to keep Alberta’s unemployment rate unusually high in 2019 and 2020. On the bright side, the unemployment rate did come down in 2018 compared to where it was in 2016 and 2017.

While both of our two largest population centres have endured unemployment rates above the national average for the last three years, Calgary has been hit harder than Edmonton in this regard. Calgary’s unemployment rate in 2018 was 7.9 per cent compared to 6.5 per cent in Edmonton. 

Outside Calgary and Edmonton, the unemployment rate was 5.4 per cent last year, but the rate in specific communities will vary depending on local economic conditions. (Statistics Canada reports up-to-date unemployment rates for seven economic regions in the province but not for particular communities.)