A report from the Fraser Institute says there are more jobs Alberta today than there were four years ago. But the public policy think-tank also says there’s bad news on the labour front.
Overall, it said there were nearly 79,000 new government jobs created in the past four years in Alberta. But the private sector has shed more than 46,000 jobs.
“The Notley government touts total employment growth in Alberta as a sign of improvement, but it omits the fact that almost all employment growth in the province has been in the government sector,” said Steve Lafleur, a senior policy analyst with the Fraser Institute.
“The reality is government jobs are driving Alberta’s employment growth while private-sector employment is shrinking, and that is not sustainable,” Lafleur said.
The Illusion of Alberta’s Jobs Recovery: Government vs. Private Sector Employment report found the following:
- government employment in Alberta – including provincial, municipal and federal jobs – increased 21.5 per cent between July 2014 and May 2018, an addition of 78,733 new government jobs;
- private-sector employment over the same four-year period declined three per cent, shedding 46,267 jobs;
- the government sector’s share of total employment (excluding the self-employed) increased from 19.5 per cent to 23.2 per cent – the highest it’s been since 1994.
“Crucially, the growth in government employment is not necessarily a result of low commodity prices or the recent recession. In fact, in neighbouring Saskatchewan, government employment grew only 2.1 per cent over the same period – or one-1oth the rate of Alberta – even though both jurisdictions depend on energy and both were hurt by the drop in commodity prices in 2014,” said the Fraser Institute.
“Previous research has shown that growth in the government sector actually displaces private-sector activity, which contributes more to living standard increases than government jobs.”
Of course, with a provincial election coming up next year, the labour market in Alberta will be a key topic of debate.
Mario Toneguzzi is a veteran Calgary-based journalist who worked for 35 years for the Calgary Herald, including 12 years as a senior business writer.