Executive summary

The Alberta labour market experienced a significant contraction in 2016, with a decrease in both employment and in the volume of new job postings published online. The decreases in employment were most pronounced in the sectors of Manufacturing, Mining, Quarrying and Oil and Gas Extraction and were most likely correlated with a sharp decline in the oil price. However, from 2017 to 2019, the labour market improved and saw steady growth.

As in many other countries, the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on Alberta’s labour market, causing a 17% drop in the number of online job postings in 2020. The impact of the pandemic on workers of different educational levels was relatively homogeneous. However, the post-pandemic recovery was particularly strong for workers with a high school diploma, with the number of new online job postings nearly tripling for this group.

Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction in Alberta was one of the fastest-growing sectors before the pandemic but suffered a significant decline during the pandemic due to the impact of COVID-19 and a decrease in oil prices. Among the different occupations hit by this shock, data show that the average number of online job postings for Welders and Machinists in Alberta declined steeply in 2020 due to lockdowns, social distancing measures and the decrease in oil prices that reduced industrial and manufacturing activity. However, this sector has shown quick recovery in demand since 2021.

The transportation and warehousing sector is one of the few sectors that continued to see growth in online job postings during the pandemic, due to the rise of e-commerce. The growth in demand for workers in transportation and warehousing has persisted post-pandemic, making it one of the few industries that has consistently experienced growth in demand for workers during and after the pandemic.

Post-pandemic, both employment and online job postings in Alberta quickly recovered, with employment growing by 5.4% and online job postings increasing by 70% in 2022. This remarkable difference in the growth of online job postings compared to employment suggests a tight labour market and the emergence of labour shortages in the near future.

In addition to the shortages emerging after the COVID-19 crisis, mega-trends such as digitalisation, the adoption of AI and of automation and population ageing are also affecting Alberta’s labour market demand. Data mining analysts and business intelligence analysts are among the top ten fastest-growing occupations in the Alberta’s labour market as a whole. These occupations are in high demand as organisations continue to collect and use more data in their activities. Data show that the largest share of online job postings (OJPs) for digital occupations is for software developers, programmers, and engineers, accounting for 36.7% in Alberta and 40.5% in Canada. Data in this report show that in a context of rapid digitalisation, the demands for several management, marketing, and HR professionals have also changed, as they now require proficiency in using software packages, web analytics, and online media, making them digital occupations as well.

The rise of e-commerce and changes in consumer behaviour, including an increased preference for online shopping, has also led to a growth in demand for delivery drivers and truck drivers in Alberta which add to shortages in the logistics sectors that are likely to create bottlenecks in the near future.

An ageing population in Alberta and Canada has also increased the demand for healthcare professionals, particularly Home Health Aides and Licensed Practical Nurses, who provide care to individuals in their homes or in healthcare facilities. The pandemic has further boosted this demand creating additional shortages.

The crisis in 2020 had a severe impact on young Albertans who experienced an average youth unemployment rate of 24% in 2020, higher than the average of 12.6% in 2019. Despite the negative impact of the pandemic on the demand for ‘youth-accessible jobs’ (i.e. jobs that require relatively low levels of work experience), the demand started to recover as the economy re-opened with a particularly significant increase in the job postings requiring a high-school diploma or no diploma. This can be attributed to the emerging shortages in the labour market, as employers struggle to find qualified workers and relaxed some of the education requirements to face labour market bottlenecks.

In such complex and evolving context, Alberta will need to consider encouraging and supporting those industries that have shown consistent growth in demand during and after the pandemic, such as the transportation and warehousing sector.

Similarly, government intervention should foster further the development of skills to adopt, manage and develop digital tools and AI to meet the increasing demand for data mining analysts, business intelligence analysts, and software developers, programmers, and engineers. This could be done through investment in training programmes, incentives for businesses to adopt AI and automation, and fostering a culture of innovation and digitalisation. In such rapidly evolving landscape, it is also imperative to monitor the impact of automation on lower-skilled occupations and provide support and retraining opportunities for workers who are at risk of losing their jobs to automation.

Policies should also be targeted to address the growing demand for healthcare professionals shown by the data, particularly home health aides and nurses. This can be done by investing in training programs, encouraging immigration, and promoting the healthcare sector as a stable and rewarding career option. Similarly, investments in elderly care facilities and support for families who provide care for elderly relatives could alleviate emerging shortages in the labour market.

Finally, policy intervention is needed to improve access to job opportunities for youth in Alberta as youth unemployment remains a key challenge despite the increase in the demand in the aftermath of the pandemic. Partnerships between government, educational institutions and the private sector can support the creation of these job opportunities in sectors in high demand through the alignment of education programmes to skill demands of firms in Alberta.

This report shows that labour markets and skill demands are changing rapidly and that timely labour market statistics is necessary to plan training policies and align them to new and emerging labour market demands. Big data intelligence, used in this report, is one of the tools that policy makers can leverage to support career guidance and advice in such fast-changing context. Many countries are already implementing new interactive career guidance tools and platforms that integrate real-time labour market intelligence. Alberta could also consider incorporating this feature into its existing career guidance portals. This would help to target enrolment in education programmes that develop skills in high demand and provide support to youth in making increasingly difficult education and training decisions.

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