Political leaders clashed Friday over newly released job numbers from Statistics Canada, which show Alberta’s March unemployment rate was slightly down month-over-month, coupled with an increase in the number of jobless people across the province who have given up trying to find work.
The report, contained in the federal agency’s monthly labour force survey, comes more than halfway through the Alberta election campaign, which has seen the issue of jobs and the economy take centre stage.
Albertans will head to the polls on April 16.
The figures released Friday show Alberta’s unemployment rate fell from 7.3 per cent in February to 6.9 per cent in March, leaving 172,100 Albertans out of work but still seeking employment. The unemployment rate for March was about 0.5 points higher than at the same time one year ago.
In Calgary, the jobless rate was slightly higher than a month prior, increasing from 7.6 per cent in February to 7.7 per cent in March.
Statistics Canada’s report showed Alberta had 18,100 more full-time jobs last month, but part-time jobs fell by 19,900, for a net decrease.
There were also fewer Albertans in the labour force in March, as a result of more jobless people in the province who have stopped looking for work. The labour force participation rate fell half a percentage point to 71.3 per cent, with 12,100 fewer people looking for new jobs.
The report proved Albertans are “living through a jobs crisis created by the NDP’s high tax ideology and their alliance with Justin Trudeau,” United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney said during a campaign stop in Calgary on Friday.
“More and more Albertans are getting frustrated, leaving the job market,” he said.
Speaking near Edmonton, NDP leader Rachel Notley said the growth in full-time jobs was a positive sign, despite the overall net loss when part-time jobs are factored in.
“That’s exactly why we are so focused on our plan to diversify and our plan to get more value for our resources,” she said, adding her party has secured more than $13 billion in private sector investment and the creation 10,000 future jobs.
“That’s why we are focused with a laser-like intention to actually use our resources to strategically invest, upgrade our resources right here in Alberta, so we stop this practice of shipping jobs south of the border,” said Notley.
But a poor economy, which has prompted “billions of dollars of investment” to flee Alberta, falls on the NDP, according to Kenney.
“The NDP says this is all about oil prices, but in U.S. states that have a large energy industry, unemployment is at half the rate of Alberta or lower,” said Kenney, citing states including North Dakota, Texas and Colorado.
“This is hard evidence of the jobs crisis that is hurting Albertans. . . I believe we see that reflected in the higher numbers of Albertans who are victims of crime, the higher numbers of people who have fallen into addiction and are reporting mental health challenges, the higher usage in food banks.”
He said the UCP would send a message to investors that Alberta “is open for business again” through the party’s proposed corporate tax cut — from 12 to eight per cent — and by repealing the carbon tax that was introduced by the NDP.
“Independent experts” predict those two measures will lead to more than 60,000 new jobs in Alberta, according to Kenney.
But Notley said Kenney’s platform, including a plan to cancel the NDP’s crude-by-rail deal, “will extend curtailment and it will slow down the jobs that will be created.”
“We know people are worried about the economy. . . We have a plan, and it’s not a plan that is built on a great big corporate tax cut combined with a big cut in pay for people who work overtime,” she said.
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