The latest job report says the provincial unemployment rate remains steady at 11 per cent, but the number of employed Albertans is down by more than five per cent from last year.
Statistics Canada released the details in its latest Labour Force Survey Friday, saying that Alberta had a net loss of about 12,000 positions from November to December in 2020.
The drop, which the agency says is partially due to Alberta's COVID-19 restrictions that targeted entertainment and recreation facilities, put the province much lower than the labour numbers recorded prior to the pandemic.
However, Alberta suffered the second-highest amount of job losses between December 2019 and 2020 (132,700 positions or 5.7 per cent). Ontario lost the most positions in that time frame – more than 250,000 positions or 3.3 per cent.
The provincial government is taking the job losses in stride, saying the statistics demonstrate "the resiliency of the Alberta economy."
"We know that many small businesses are struggling to stay alive," said Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer in a statement. "That is why we tripled the support available to them through our relaunch grant. As of Jan. 7, we have paid out more than $232 million to more than 36,000 small and medium-sized businesses to help them when they need it most."
The Alberta NDP isn't convinced by the Kenney government's optimism, saying the lack of action during the second wave of COVID-19 has hurt the province.
It also accused the government of ignoring federal grant money that could be used to help struggling Albertans.
"They’re rejecting a much needed injection into our local economy," said NDP Labour Critic Christina Gray in a release. "These workers have been going all out for months now and they deserve the same support that has been given to other essential workers across Canada."
Statistics Canada says the impact of the most current health restrictions in Alberta, which include the rules that affect in-person dining and personal care services, will be included on the January job report.
Gray says the current restrictions came at the wrong time – during the holiday season – and more will need to be done to help affected workers.
"If we are going to get through this second wave and protect jobs, we need immediate financial support for workers and small businesses," she said.
Nationwide, the country lost 63,000 positions, the first decline in employment since April. Canada's unemployment rate was 8.6 per cent, up by 0.1 per cent from November.