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Alberta drives national construction employment growth

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by Richard Gilbert

The number of people employed in Canada declined in July, but construction employment increased driven by growth in Alberta.

The number of people employed in Canada declined in July, but construction employment increased driven by growth in Alberta.

“It (construction employment) did run counter to the overall trend and made a substantial increase, however the gain did not offset the decline elsewhere,” said Bank of Montreal deputy chief economist Douglas Porter.

“Even though it went up in July, it has gone down in size since last July. We haven’t seen construction come down from year-on-year levels since the recession. This gives you the sense that things have cooled off on that front.”

Statistics Canada reported recently that national employment declined by 30,000 in July to 17,479,300 million.

The unemployment rate increased by 0.1 percentage points to 7.3 per cent.

Compared with 12 months earlier, employment increased 0.8 per cent or 139,000.

The decline in employment was fairly broad based across industries, including professional, scientific and technical services (-21,600), manufacturing (-18,400), public administration (-17,000) and natural resources (-8,900).

These losses were offset somewhat by gains in construction (+10,700), information, culture and recreation (+23,800) as well as finance, insurance, real estate and leasing (+19,200).

Despite the monthly increase, construction employment has fallen by 15,900 or 1.2 per cent since July 2011.

The jump in national construction employment in July was concentrated in Alberta, which increased by 15,300 to 240,900 people.

This increase was enough to offset a reduction in employment in several other sectors.

Overall, employment in Alberta increased by 5,800 to 2.15 million people.

Alberta continued to have the lowest unemployment rate among all the provinces at 4.6 per cent.

With gains made throughout most of the previous 12 months, employment in this province has increased by 2.2 per cent since July 2011, which is the highest growth rate of all provinces.

Employment in B.C. declined by 15,000 in July, which pushed the unemployment rate up 0.4 percentage points to 7.0 per cent.

Following this trend, the construction industry declined by 6,200 or 3 per cent to 183,700 people.

“What we are seeing right now and back to last year is a real dampening of construction employment,” said Bryan Yu, an economist at Central 1 Credit Union.

“There was a surge in the first half of 2011, but we have seen a drop off, which corresponds to a decline in non-residential investment and a drop off in housing starts and housing construction.”

Overall, employment in British Columbia increased by 33,400 or 1.5 per cent compared with 12 months earlier.

However, the construction industry declined by 20,300 or 10 per cent in the same period.

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