Alberta unemployment myth

Recently there’s a lot of propaganda in the air about unemployment numbers. So the best way to deal with that is to go to the source.

Lets combine population data from Google, Wikipedia and Alberta Government

with Unemployment stats

So according to the sources above we went from 3M people in 2000 to 4.4M people in 2020. So far so good. Now lets apply that to our unemployment stats, shall we? So the lowest unemployment rate I can find is 2006 data – 3.0% at which point population was at 3.4M people. Which produces number of 102000 unemployed people.

At the time of previous elections in 2015 unemployment rate was 5.9% with population of 4.1M which pegs the unemployment at 244500 people.

Now in 2016 we’ve peaked at 9.1% unemployment rate with population of 4.1M which gives us 377149 unemployed people. Couple of notes here – we’re talking 2000-2020 peak. The real peak is in Sep 1984 with 12.4% with population of 2.4M which is 297600 people. So one has to keep perspective on things.

Moving forward however we see that at the time of the last election it was 6.7% with population of 4.4M which puts the number of unemployed at 292900.

Since that time unemployment rose to 7.2% which brings number of unemployed individuals at 314700 today.

At this point we can put to rest claims that NDP government lost AB 100K+ jobs. The proper number is 52900 jobs at the time when province grew about 300000 people.

Now lets add a dimension to this – crude oil prices….

Lets interpose those two (apologies for the messy view):

Unemployment was not really the function of government in Alberta – it was function of Oil prices. Also interesting is the fact that since about 2000 (or probably even 1999) we’ve got direct relation between oil prices and unemployment reversed. Sounds like O&G companies were milking scarse resources without increasing employment. Smells scammy?

Maybe oil production was down?

Nope. Business as usual.

Best guess here is automation of oil extraction/production and elimination of human jobs replaced with machines. While employment is down Alberta is extracting more oil?

So the take-away here is that unemployment rates were fluctuating wildly including while NDP was at the steering wheel however given the slump in oil prices from 2015 to 2018 NDP lost 52900 jobs at the time when province grew 300000 people. Considering low point of oil price at $36.51 depressing the economy that is likely not creating too many new jobs due to all that “extra” workforce laid off by O&G industry. May not be spectacular but lets face it – in 2015 province was in the freefall anyway – thanks to falling oil prices all the way into 2016.

More importantly that dip in employment happens to coincide with reduced oil production and significant drop in oil prices. Hmm…

So lets recap: this province for the last 20 years had number of unemployed people above 100K even when population was much smaller. Employment rate was mostly in-step with oil prices no matter who’s steering and how much “greasing” oil companies get.

If one really wants to get touchy about unemployment one has to look at 1984 (12.4%, 297600 unemployed) and 1993 (10.2%, 275400 unemployed) for real peaks and one can’t blame federal party either as we’ve had Liberals and PC at the helm respectively. The only unifying theme is oil prices.

So why is Alberta government keeps on giving away taxpayer’s money to oil companies with “no strings attached”? Wouldn’t it be more prudent to demand some return on that investment, like protected jobs during oil prices being down? Why should corporate tax be lower than personal? Is it not enough big companies feel no incentive to keep people employed in downturns of economy yet we should deplete government coffers from the social security money as well by not taxing corporations?

This province is being strapped to the oil barrel by each successive conservative government making it impossible to implement anything close to stable economy while oil prices fluctuate.

I’ve collated the data from above into a handy table (highlighted two election points).

1984Sep2.4M12.4%$72.67Just as conservatives
win the election?
1986Mar2.4M9.4%$24.63Low OP & high UE.
Loonie is at all time low
of $0.70
1998Nov2.9M6.1%$17.59Low point for OP
puncturing the
highest UE of the
2006Oct3.4M3.0%$74.88High OP, low UE
2015May4.1M5.9%$65.24Election time
2016Jan4.1M7.5%$36.51Low OP, higher UE,
but wait…
2016Nov4.1M9.1%$52.70There it is. high UE
catching up to low OP
2018Sep4.3M7.0%$74.64As soon as OP goes up
UE drops.
2019Apr4.4M6.7%$64.29Election, but
mind that figure…
2020Jan4.4M7.2%$63.05so OP the same, UE

Relevant read: Norway vs Alberta model.

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