1. The context: Trends in online job postings in Alberta

This chapter discusses insights about trends in labour demand in Alberta between 2015 and the most recent months for which information on job postings published online is available: September 2022. Statistics about the evolution of demand are presented for Alberta and commented along with results for Canada as a whole. The information stemming from the collection of job postings published online allows the analysis of very granular occupation titles. Using the Lightcast occupational taxonomy, this chapter reviews the trends in demand of occupations up to the 8th digit level, 2 levels more granular than the Standard Occupational Classification utilised in previous skill analyses such as the O*NET in the United States.1

The analysis in this chapter focuses on different time periods, conscious of the unprecedented shock to labour markets in the year 2020 as the COVID-19 crisis unfolded across the globe. Trends in labour market demand (as they appear across millions of job postings collected from the internet in Alberta and Canada) are examined for the ‘pre-pandemic’ period in between 2015 and February of 2020, during the peak of the pandemic (March to December 2020) and in the post-pandemic period (from January 2021 up September 2022).

Given the large number of occupations that could be potentially analysed using the occupational information of online job postings at the 8th digit level, the analysis presented in this chapter focuses on those which had above-average number of job postings in between 2015 and the pandemic period (February 2020)2 in order to highlight the pre-pandemic trends and to assess how those may have been disrupted or accelerate by the COVID-19 and in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Results in this chapter show that the COVID-19 pandemic had a strong impact on economic activity in Alberta and Canada, leading to a 17% decrease in the number of online job postings and a 6.5% decrease in employment in Alberta in 2020 compared to 2019.

Despite a large negative impact, Alberta’s employment levels and the number of new online job postings recovered rapidly post-pandemic, growing by 5.4% and 70% respectively in 2022. This chapter shows that the significantly larger growth in online job postings than in employment numbers is signalling a tight labour market and potential labour shortages in 2022 across a variety of occupations and sectors.

Similarly, the analysis of online job postings in this chapter shows that the pandemic affected the demand for workers with different education levels relatively equally, but that the post-pandemic recovery has been stronger for workers with only a high school diploma as new online job postings for these workers nearly tripled.

When disaggregating the results at the sub-province level, the analysis shows that Alberta’s largest regions, Calgary and Edmonton, had very different labour demand during the pandemic, with Calgary’s online job postings decreasing more steeply (-22%) compared to -6% for Edmonton.

Millions of jobs are advertised every day, and an increasing number of these are advertised on online platforms like LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, ZipRecruiter and CareerBuilder. Likewise, millions of individuals around the world use these same platforms to search for a job. All those platforms provide these users, individuals and firms, with an ‘electronic labour market’ where they can find one another.

Advancements in automated web scraping technologies, that is, the automated retrieval and storage of information from online platforms, allows the collection and use of information contained in job postings to analyse trends in labour market dynamics and skill demands. The advantages of using the information contained in online job postings over traditional labour market statistics lie in its timeliness, richness, and granularity (OECD, 2021[1]).

Unlike traditional labour market survey data, which may be costly and require time to design, administer and analyse, online job postings are captured continuously. Algorithms standardise, quality assure, and store the information which is then made available for analysis on a continuous manner. This allows frequent updating of the results as labour markets and demands from employers evolve. Further, the richness and granularity of the information contained in online postings allows analysts and policy makers to move beyond the analysis of generic concepts such as the demand for the “Knowledge of Informatics” (assessed in databases like O*NET) to the assessment of the demand of more granular and specific knowledge domains such as “Python programming” or “Web design”.

While the richness and granularity of skills and labour market information contained in online postings is unprecedented, caveats and limitations to the use of this data also exist. First, not all job openings are published online and therefore statistics therein may not be representative of the whole universe of job openings. As pointed out by (Hershbein and Kahn, 2016[2]) vacancies appearing online are likely to be skewed towards certain areas of the economy despite the fact that available jobs have been increasingly appearing online instead of in traditional sources, such as newspapers. On these regards, (Carnevale, Jayasundera and Repnikov, 2014[3]) estimate that around 80-90% of postings requiring at least a Bachelor’s degree can be found online, whereas 40-60% of job postings requiring a high school diploma are channelled through the internet. That being said, (Hershbein and Kahn, 2016[2]) also suggest that when comparing the relative frequency of postings in online vacancies data to survey-based data, online vacancy data reflect labour demand reasonably well and that the differences that emerge appear relatively stable over time. Recent OECD studies also highlight that the potential bias is likely to be more pronounced in low skilled jobs and less of a concern for high-skilled occupations and sectors (Cammeraat and Squicciarini, 2021[4]). Further, not all high skilled vacancies are posted online and some are channelled through informal and internal company channels.

This chapter uses a dataset of online job postings with monthly information between January of 2015 to May of 2022 to analyse Alberta’s labour market trends and compare them with those in Canada. The data is collected, transformed and harmonised by Lightcast (formerly Emsi-Burning Glass Technologies). The data is composed of millions of individual level job postings with up to 70 different variables ranging from skill keywords contained in each job posting, qualifications and experience required to fill the job and its geographical location, the name of the firm that is advertising the vacancy as well as the type of contract (permanent, temporary) and, when available, the salary offered for the specific role advertised. The OECD further transformed the data to create yearly aggregates, cross tabulations and other statistics presented in the document.

Looking at the years 2015-2019, it is clear that Alberta’s labour market took a dip in 2016, both in terms of employment (see Figure 1.1) and in terms of the average number of online job postings (OJPs henceforth) (see Figure 1.2). The decreases in employment were most pronounced in the sectors of Manufacturing, Mining, Quarrying and Oil and Gas Extraction and Agriculture (Government of Alberta, 2017[5]) and were most likely correlated with a sharp decline in the oil price (Fields and Bourbeau, 2017[6]).3 The decrease in OJPs was more pronounced for Alberta than for Canada as a whole, again related to the job losses in goods-producing industries due to the oil prices (Fields and Bourbeau, 2017[6]).

In between 2017 and 2019, data show clear recovery in terms of Alberta’s employment figures, as the number of employed Albertans in 2018 exceeded those in 2015. The sectors that saw the largest decreases in 2015 and 2016 also experienced the largest gains in employment in 2018, the Manufacturing industry, followed again by the Mining, Quarrying and Oil and Gas Extraction sector (Government of Alberta, 2019[7]). The average number of OJPs was more volatile than the employment numbers, as they still decreased in 2018 (see Box 1.1 for further details).

Generally, the volume of OJPs tracks the evolution of the demand for labour,4 that is the number of new available vacancies in the economy as they were published online. The interpretation of the evolution of OJPs and of employment calls for some attention when interpreting the results. New vacancies may be filled leading to the creation of new employment. New job postings, however, may also remain unfilled when the available workforce does not match the increasing demand by quantity or quality sought by employers. This latter situation, in which the rate by which new OJPs are posted exceeds employment growth, is likely to signal the emergence of labour shortages and bottlenecks. Conversely, employment figures may grow faster than OJPs when, for instance, hiring is done internally within the firm and candidates with adequate profiles are abundant in the labour market, signalling potential surpluses of workers (see Box 1.1).

The COVID-19 crisis in 2020 was a sudden and unprecedented event that significantly transformed the lives of every person around the world (OECD, 2021[1]). Fear of infection, strict public health guidelines and great uncertainty produced a sharp and sudden contraction in economic activity. The result was a deep and widespread shock to the labour market, with a serious impact on the demand for skills and labour. Many industries were forced to cease operations to protect their workers’ health and comply with policies aiming to contain the virus. Whenever possible, employers reorganised their operations to facilitate remote working, but many individuals lost their jobs and livelihoods. At the same time, the health crisis created shortages of workers in specific occupations (mainly healthcare and public safety), and labour markets and governments struggled to find skilled professionals to fill the gaps.

As the SARS-CoV-2 virus began to spread, countries introduced containment and mitigation strategies, such as limiting the movement and travel of individuals, closing schools and other educational institutions, halting non-essential activities and postponing non-essential medical interventions. Although the exact nature, timing, scope and intensity of responses varied substantially across countries, and sometimes even within countries, the containment measures inevitably had a profound impact on labour markets.

In Alberta, the dual shock of the COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse in oil prices in March and April of 2020 severely impacted the labour market. Figure 1.1 shows that total employment declined by 6.6% (Statistics Canada, 2022[8]) as the record number of job losses in spring 2020 was the largest annual contraction since 1976.

The decline in employment impacted almost all types of workers across the different sectors of the economy (Statistics Canada, 2022[8]; Statistics Canada, 2022[9]). In Alberta, the goods sector lost more jobs compared to the services sector and the private sector suffered relatively more job losses than the public sector, 7.1% versus 0.3%. The only two sectors that saw an increase in employment in 2020 were “Healthcare and social assistance” and “Finance and insurance”. Both full-time and part-time jobs were lost in almost equal measure, 6.6% and 6.2% respectively across the province. In contrast, the number of self-employed Albertans increased modestly during the year.

The analysis of online job postings confirms the unprecedented impact of the pandemic on Alberta’s labour market. The volume of OJPs in April 2020, at the start of worldwide lockdown measures, decreased by 39% relative to the previous month. This is consistent with the lockdown and restrictions implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic that halted economic and productive activities to safeguard the health of workers in non-essential sectors. In the rest of 2020, the number of job postings increased when compared to April, notably by 53% in May. May also coincides with a partial reopening of business in Alberta, with e.g. restaurants cafes, day-cares and retail stores opening from 14 May onwards (Government of Alberta, 2020[10]). On average in Alberta, however, in 2020 the number of OJPs remained about 17% lower than in 2019. Job postings published online in the whole Canada followed a very similar dynamic, suffering a noticeable drop in 2020 as well (see Figure 1.2.).

Despite the sharp decline in economic activity experienced in 2020, Alberta (and Canada as a whole) experienced a strong recovery afterwards in 2021 and 2022. For instance, Albertan employment statistics for the period in between January and October 2022 show an increase in employment by 5.4% compared to the same months in 2021 (Statistics Canada, 2022[11]). Most of the growth in Alberta’s employment was experienced in the service industry, with “professional, scientific and technical services” leading the recovery with an increase in employment of approximately 13% (Government of Canada, 2022[12]).

Data on job postings published online also confirm this significant labour market rebound in 2021 and especially in 2022, signalling a strong recovery and the increasing pressure on labour markets to find workers and talent.

The stark increase in Alberta’s OJPs in January to September of 2022 and the moderate increase in employment are consistent with the reported shortages in the labour market. Results in Figure 1.2. indicate that OJPs in Alberta increased by approximately 70% compared to the same period in 2021, while employment increased by approximately 5%. Results seem to suggest that even though more Albertans have been able to find employment in the recent recovery, a large share of vacancies that are posted online may still remain unfilled. In this context, shortages have for example been reported in the hospitality sector, healthcare sector, and construction sector (Government of Canada, 2022[12]). Notably, employment in the healthcare sector decreased while OJPs for this sector increased by approximately 59% in January-September 2022 compared to the same period in the previous year. Canadian news outlets have been reporting on healthcare professionals quitting or relocating due to the pressure that was put on them in the COVID-19 crisis throughout 2022 (Mertz, 2022[13]; Randhawa and Slack, 2022[14]). The mismatch between employment and job postings dynamics is indicative of the shortages which have caused disruptions to services, with for example hospitals having to temporarily close acute care beds (Government of Canada, 2022[12]).

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the way people work, with many companies and organisations shifting to remote working to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Notably, prior to the pandemic, remote working was already a growing trend, but the rapid spread of COVID-19 accelerated the shift to remote working at an unprecedented rate.

With governments around the world implementing strict measures to slow the spread of the virus, many businesses were forced to close their offices and ask employees to work from home. This has resulted in a significant increase in the number of people working remotely, with some estimates suggesting that the number of Canadian remote workers increased from 4% in 2016 to 32% at the beginning of 2021 (Statistics Canada, 2021[15]).

The shift to remote working has also been driven by advances in technology, which have made it easier for employees to work remotely. Cloud-based tools and apps have made it possible for employees to access the same resources and applications they would normally use in the office, regardless of their location. This has enabled employees to continue working on projects, communicating with colleagues, and collaborating on documents, even when they are working remotely.

While the pandemic has been a significant strain on many workers, it has also highlighted the benefits of remote working for both employees and employers (Statistics Canada, 2021[15]). For employees, remote working has meant greater flexibility and autonomy in terms of when and where they work. This has allowed many employees to better balance their work and personal lives, resulting in improved work-life balance and reduced stress levels. For employers, remote working has meant reduced costs associated with office space and other overhead expenses, as well as increased productivity, as employees are able to work more efficiently when they are not commuting to the office.

Remote working has also played a role in addressing some current labour market challenges. With many businesses shutting down or reducing their operations due to the pandemic, remote working has allowed employees to continue working, even when their usual place of work was not available. Additionally, remote working has also been a way for employers to retain their employees, even when they are not able to operate at full capacity.

However, remote working also has its own set of challenges as workers may have struggled in maintaining a sense of connection and collaboration among team members. While technology has made it easier to communicate and collaborate remotely, it can be still difficult to replicate the informal interactions and face-to-face conversations that take place in the office or in the workplace.

The pandemic has also highlighted the existence of digital divides, with some employees not having access to the technology and resources needed to work remotely. This has resulted in a further widening of the gap between those who have access to digital technologies and those who do not, making it difficult for some employees to fully participate in remote working.

Looking at the number of jobs that explicitly mention work-from-home opportunities in their job posting, the impact of the pandemic is undeniable (Figure 1.3). Before 2020, less than 1% of OJPs mentioned remote working options, both in Alberta and in Canada as a whole. During the pandemic in 2020, this number doubled to 2% and 2.3% respectively. In 2021 the share of OJPs that mentioned remote working possibilities more than doubled again, to 4.4% and 4.6% in Alberta and Canada.

Possibly people were still worried about COVID-19, as well as finding that they preferred working from home at least some of the time. For instance, 80% of Canadians that were new to teleworking in the pandemic mentioned wanting to continue working at least half of their hours from home, also after the pandemic. (Statistics Canada, 2021[15]) Between January and September of 2022, with all COVID-19 restrictions lifted, the number of OJPs that mentioned WFH decreased to 3.9% in Alberta. In Canada as a whole however, the number of OJPs that explicitly mentioned remote working options did not decrease in 2022 but stayed at 4.6%.

All in all, the number of OJPs that mentions teleworking options is, however, rather limited. Note that this does not mean that only 4% of employers offer remote working opportunities. It is quite probable that more employers offer teleworking, but that this is not explicitly mentioned in their online vacancies. For example, in 2021 32% of Canadians reported working most of their hours from home (Statistics Canada, 2021[15]), which is considerably more than the 4% of OJPs that mention remote options, as teleworking arrangements have been implemented on existing jobs and not only on new vacancies. Furthermore, the data on WFH opportunities needs to be carefully interpreted, as there is a higher chance of misclassification. Certain jobs, like “Home Appliance Repairer”, are often wrongly classified as jobs that can be done remotely, but in fact cannot be done from the worker’s home. These types of jobs have been excluded from WFH-jobs in the current analysis, for a full list of excluded professions see Annex A.

While the pandemic impacted all workers, the extent of such impact was heterogeneous across workers with different education and training levels in Alberta and in Canada. For this reason, the distribution of OJPs across different educational requirements is analysed. Results in Figure 1.4 show that job postings requiring a bachelor or college degree represented the largest share (around 50%) of total OJPs5 published in Alberta in the years preceding the pandemic (2015-2019). Jobs requiring high school education or no degree were the second largest group, at around 36%. Some 7% of new job postings in the same period were explicitly seeking candidates with at least a master’s degree while around 6% of jobs asked for at least an associate’s or vocational degree.

A direct comparison between the required education level (in job postings) and educational attainment in Alberta shows that the two dimensions are relatively aligned, despite OJPs searching for highly educated employees slightly more often.6 Analysis by (Statistics Canada, 2022[16]) shows, in fact, that just over half (55.1%) of Alberta’s population has a non-university certificate/diploma or a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2021 relative to about 60% of the OJPs requiring this level of education. Some 35% of Albertans have a high school diploma or no diploma. Around 34% of all Albertan job postings seek candidates with this education level.7

Pre-pandemic, the distribution of demand for workers with different types of qualifications as measured by OJPs had been relatively stable in Alberta, with a notable exception in 2015. Most OJPs are posted for positions requiring a bachelor’s degree, followed by jobs looking for employees with a high school diploma or no diploma. Data for 2015 and 2016, however, shows a notable decline in the number of OJPs searching for employees with a high school diploma or no diploma. This is most likely due to the drop in oil prices that was experienced in 2015 and 2016, which had a disproportionate impact on the goods-producing industries, which are industries that typically also employ many people without post-secondary education (Fields and Bourbeau, 2017[6]).

The pandemic led to significant shifts in the demand for workers across different education levels. Demand decreased for three out the four categorised education levels when comparing 2020 to 2019. The average number of postings requiring a bachelor’s degree or master’s/PhD both decreased by 11%, while jobs requiring a high school diploma decreased by 8%. In contrast, jobs requiring at least an associate’s or vocational degree instead increased slightly by 7%. One reason why the loss of OJPs requiring less than a college education was smaller, could be that many blue-collar jobs were deemed “essential jobs” during the pandemic and workers in those occupations were allowed to continue their operations (Milligan et al., 2021[17]). For example, cashiers, people involved in the production and distribution of food, logistics and delivery were able to continue working, even during the peak of the pandemic (Milligan et al., 2021[17]).

In the post-pandemic period, starting from January 2021 demand picked up again and the volume of OJPs increased for each education level. Differently from the decline in OJPs triggered by the pandemic, the recovery in the demand was less homogenous. The number of jobs requiring lower education titles grew much faster, especially in 2022. For instance, OJPs requiring at least a bachelor’s degree increased by 33% in 2022. At the same time, OJPS requiring a minimum of a high school degree/no degree nearly tripled in 2022. The post-pandemic growth in demand for lower educated workers is not unique to Canada. In the United States, shortages for manual labour jobs have been increasing in 2022, leading to a tight labour market and high wage growth for blue-collar workers (Levanon, 2022[18])

Just like for most other education levels, the average number of OJPs requiring a high school diploma or no diploma decreased in 2020, by 8% (see Figure 1.5). Post-pandemic, especially in 2022, they increased significantly, both in Alberta and in Canada as a whole.8 In the first nine months of 2021 there were on average 2084 monthly job postings explicitly looking for workers with this education level in Alberta. For same period in 2022, this number increased to about 5872.

When crossing information at the education level with sector dynamics, as presented in Table 1.1, indicators show that the largest relative decrease in OJPs seeking workers with a high-school diploma was experienced in the “Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction” sector in 2020. Notably, however, the volume of new OJPs in the mining sector for this education level was decreasing already in the pre-pandemic period. In the post-pandemic period (from January 2021) the mining sector saw a remarkably large rebound and increase in the volume of new vacancies posted online.

The largest decrease in the total number of OJPs instead happened for the Accommodation and Food Service sector. This sector, along with the Retail Trade sector, accounts for the largest share of OJPs looking for high school graduates/people without a diploma. In 2019, there were on average 169 OJPs looking for people of this education level to work in accommodation and food services. During the pandemic, the number of new vacancies posted online for this education level was instead approximately 104. This sector was significantly affected by the pandemic, as restaurants, cafes and bars had to close to limit the spread of the SAR-CoV-2 virus. Although establishments were allowed to open again in May of 2020 (Government of Alberta, 2020[10]), OJPs did not increase remarkably. Analysis by Statistics Canada (2020[19]) indicates that many workers who were inactive during the peak of the pandemic in this sector were were simply hired again, potentially through informal channels, which would entail a less pronounced use of online job postings to advertise vacancies. When looking at the post-pandemic period, as demand for accommodation and food services increased again, finding new employees became increasingly more difficult, leading to an increase in the volume of new OJPs in 2022 and to the reported labour shortages in Alberta and Canada as a whole.

Retail Trade is one of the Alberta’s sectors that most often advertise jobs for workers with lower qualifications, typically a high school diploma (or no diploma). Notably, this is one of only two sectors that experienced a positive growth in the average number of OJPs for this education level in 2020, see Table 1.1. The average number of OJPs looking for workers with a high-school diploma or lower grew by 3.6% in Alberta in between 2019 and 2020, despite a significant decline in demand in March and in April of 2020, during the peak of the pandemic. The overall growth in demand started in May 2020 and coinciding with a partial reopening of business in Alberta.9

Comparing the growth trajectories of the two largest sectors looking for workers with a high school diploma or no diploma, the retail industry recovered faster than the hospitality industry. Firstly, measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 were more limiting for the day-to-day business of for example a restaurant or café than for a shop. Secondly, customers felt hesitant to dine-in and spend a prolonged time inside surrounded by other people (Sood, 2021[20]), more so than to visit a shop for a short while.

Apart from retail trade, one other sector saw an increase in OJPs looking for people with a high school diploma or no diploma during the pandemic: “Healthcare and Social Assistance”, where the number of new online job postings grew by 4.9%. Evidently, the pandemic put pressure on the healthcare system. While the total number of OJPs for the healthcare sector decreased in 2020, the number of jobs in this sector for people with lower qualifications (i.e. lower than bachelor’s) increased instead. Potentially, demand for practical tasks, such as cleaning hospitals and delivering food to patients, increased during the pandemic, which workers with these types of education are more likely to perform. Tasks performed by healthcare support staff are often overlooked, but necessary to keep a hospital running. As Zorimar Rivera-Núñez, author of a recently published study on health support staff during the pandemic,10 said: “without the crews that clean and sanitize operating rooms, there can be no surgery […] and without meals prepared in hospital kitchens and delivered to patients’ bedsides, there can be no hospital recuperation.” (Washburn, 2022[21])

Furthermore, the analysis of OJPs indicates that the construction sector in Alberta experienced one of the largest increases post-pandemic, as the number of OJPs searching for people with a high school diploma or no diploma tripled in size in 2022. Construction accounted for 3.8% of the total OJPs searching for people of this education level when looking at all years, but for 7.2% in 2022.11 In their labour market bulletin of September 2022, the Canadian Government mentions construction as one of the industries facing the largest shortages at this moment (Government of Canada, 2022[12]). To address these shortages, leaders in Alberta’s construction industry have recently made millions of dollars in funding available to help students pursue training in the form of apprenticeship and diploma programs (Global News Canada, 2022[22]).

The majority of Alberta’s OJPs are published for jobs that are either in the Calgary (41%) or Edmonton (38%) service region12 (Figure 1.6). This is unsurprising, as in terms of population sizes, Calgary and Edmonton together make up 36% of the total Albertan population in the 18-64 age group.13 Central (5%), Grande Prairie (4%) and Keyano (3%) are the other three regions with the largest concentration of new OJPs across Alberta’s territory. The remaining, less populated, regions14 account for 8.6% of the total number of job postings, with only Lethbridge being larger than 2% (2.8%). In the rest of this section Calgary, Edmonton and Grande Prairie are discussed in more detail, including how different sectors developed in these regions.

The distribution of OJPs in Alberta on the map in Figure 1.7, confirms the analysis at the service region level. Indeed, Calgary and Edmonton together account for over 60% of the total OJPs in Alberta. Most of Alberta’s OJPs are posted in the southern half of the province, with a notable exception being the area in the specialised municipality:15 “Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo” in the northeast of Alberta, which accounts for around 5% of OJPs as well. This area is home to oil sands deposits, among which the Athabasca Oil Sands. This is only area in Alberta where oils are at a shallow enough depth to be mined (Government of Alberta, 2017[23]), and it is therefore home to Alberta’s oil mining industry (Goverment of Alberta, 2017[24]). The presence of the oil mining industry partially explains why there are a relatively higher number of OJPs in that area compared to most other areas, as the mining sector contributed to about 21% GDP in Alberta over the last two decades (Wang, 2021[25]). The city of Wood Buffalo itself, which is located in service region Keyano, accounts for around 3% of OJPs, which corresponds to the share of OJPs found in that service region.

It is important to note that areas where the map is greyed-out are areas for which no OJPs were available between 2015 and 2022.16 The lack of available OJPs reflects in part the distribution of economic activity, meaning that potentially these areas do not have a very active labour market. It also partially reflects how well the usage of ICT and the use of web portals for posting vacancies has penetrated that area.

As mentioned, the relative majority of OJPs in Alberta are looking for workers in the Calgary area. This holds true in all years between 2015 and 2022, except during the peak of the pandemic in 2020 (see Figure 1.8). At that time, the number of average new monthly OJPs was larger in Edmonton.

Analyses of the evolution of demand indicates that Calgary experienced a much larger decrease in the number of OJPs than Edmonton during the pandemic. Calgary’s OJPs diminished by about 21% relative to 6% in Edmonton.

Calgary economic structure relies significantly on its energy industry (World Energy Cities Partnership, 2022[27]), which saw a significant decrease in revenue during 2020 due to the combination of the pandemic and the fall in oil prices (Wang, 2021[25]). Calgary’s manufacturing sector, mining sector, transportation sector, and professional, scientific, and technical services sector took large hits in 2020. These four sectors together account for 33% of the decrease in OJPs in Calgary in 2020. It is worth noting that employees in these sectors often had fewer opportunities to work from home, limiting their ability to remain active during the peak of the pandemic and leading to a strong contraction in their demand.

In contrast to Calgary, Edmonton had a smaller decrease in the volume of new OJPs in 2020, the smallest out of all five largest regions (-6%). Edmonton as the capital city of Alberta, represents a major hub for Alberta’s government jobs. For instance, before the pandemic, in 2019 some 2600 monthly OJPs were looking for workers in the public administration sector, in contrast, in Calgary there were 1 230 monthly public administration postings in the same period. Edmonton did not go through the pandemic unscathed and 2020 brought the largest decrease in Edmontonian jobs for the public administration sector, with new job postings decreasing to around 1 480 per month. This decrease accounted for 29% of the total decrease in OJPs in Edmonton.17

In the recovery period, starting in 2021, the number of new job postings increased more pronouncedly in Calgary than in Edmonton, signaling a stronger recovery that followed the much more severe previous decline in that region. The dynamics during the recovery confirm that lockdowns have played a significant role in the sharp decline in labour market demand in Calgary’s region during the pandemic.

To put these trends into perspective, in 2021 the average number of monthly OJPs increased by 50.5% in Calgary, and by 34.9% in Edmonton. Calgary’s Manufacturing, Mining, Transportation, and Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services sectors account for about 23% of the total increase. However, the recovery was the strongest in the Accommodation & Food Services. Edmonton saw its starkest increase in OJPs in Construction and in Finance & Insurance.

More recently, in 2022, the growth rates in the two largest regions have started to become more similar, with significant increases in the volume of new job postings (69.7% and 66.2% in Calgary and Edmonton respectively). During that year, Accommodation & Food Services, followed by Retail Trade grew the fastest in both regions. Notably, both sectors are now dealing with pressing shortages in Alberta (Government of Canada, 2022[12]). For the hospitality industry in particular, news outlets have reported that many ex-hospitality workers switched industries, moving for example into healthcare or financial services (Zapata, 2022[28]).

Although Grande Prairie is much smaller than Calgary and Edmonton18 in terms of population, this region has some characteristics that make it of particular interest. Firstly, the city of Grande Prairie has a relatively young population, with the median age being just 32 (City of Grande Prairie, 2020[29]). The labour force therefore makes up a relatively large part of its total population. Secondly, the pandemic had a really strong impact on the number of OJPs for this region.

Figure 1.9 shows that, in 2020, the average number of OJPs in Grande prairie decreased by 38.7%, going from on average 538.5 per month to 330.1. This is the largest decrease out of all the Albertan regions. The reason why the pandemic impacted Grande Prairie so significantly has likely to do with the key industries in this region. Some of the most important industries in Grande Prairie are agriculture, forestry, oil & gas, retail and tourism (City of Grande Prairie, 2020[29]). Similar to service region Calgary, the number of OJPs for the mining sector decreased strongly in 2020, going from on average 230 OJPs to 72. Canada’s tourism industry of course suffered greatly from travel restrictions and other measures designed to diminish the spread of the virus (LMIC, 2020[30]). Tourism is part of the Accommodation and Food service industry, which saw a 25% decrease in OJPs in 2020 in Grande Prairie.

Post-pandemic, Grande Prairie has had a strong recovery, with new job postings nearly doubling in 2021 and increasing from an average of 660 new vacancies per month in 2021 to 1 332 in 2022. Just like for the rest of Alberta, the driving forces behind the recovery are the Accommodations and Food Service sector and the Retail Trade sector. The mining sector also saw a large increase, going from 72 monthly OJPs in Grande Prairie during the peak of the pandemic to 590 in 2022.


[31] Camacho-Rivera, M. (ed.) (2022), “Experiences of Black and Latinx health care workers in support roles during the COVID-19 pandemic: A qualitative study”, PLOS ONE, Vol. 17/1, p. e0262606, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0262606.

[4] Cammeraat, E. and M. Squicciarini (2021), “Burning Glass Technologies’ data use in policy-relevant analysis: An occupation-level assessment”, OECD Science, Technology and Industry Working Papers, No. 2021/05, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/cd75c3e7-en.

[3] Carnevale, A., T. Jayasundera and D. Repnikov (2014), Understanding Online Job Ads Data, Center on Education and the Workforce, https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/OCLM.Tech_.Web_.pdf.

[29] City of Grande Prairie (2020), Reports & Publications - 2020 Economic Profile, https://cityofgp.com/sites/default/files/docs/ecdev/grande_prairie_economic_profile_-_2020-web_final.pdf (accessed on  November 2022).

[6] Fields, A. and E. Bourbeau (2017), Annual review of the labour market, 2016, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75-004-m/75-004-m2017001-eng.htm (accessed on  January 2023).

[22] Global News Canada (2022), Alberta construction industry bankrolls scholarships to shore up worker shortages, https://globalnews.ca/news/9208647/alberta-construction-industry-scholarships-worker-shortages/ (accessed on  November 2022).

[24] Goverment of Alberta (2017), Industry Profiles 2017 - Health Care and Social Assistance Industry, https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/fdabc07b-956b-4ec9-b0db-84a10ea0def4/resource/4df0e196-64f5-4c2b-b6e5-b4d6b6135a42/download/industry-profile-health-care-and-social-assistance.pdf (accessed on  November 2022).

[10] Government of Alberta (2020), Alberta is ready for relaunch | L’Alberta est prête pour la relance, https://www.alberta.ca/release.cfm?xID=71348A0F295D8-DA49-AFDF-A55CD044FEE7F8B8 (accessed on  November 2022).

[7] Government of Alberta (2019), 2018 Annual Alberta Labour Market Review, https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/591795c0-ac54-4692-81c4-9f1ee0f1bd27/resource/b35c6f7a-a357-4a0b-b493-e35dab94e0d5/download/lbr-2018-annual-alberta-labour-market-review.pdf (accessed on  November 2022).

[5] Government of Alberta (2017), 2016 Annual Alberta Labour Market Review, https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/591795c0-ac54-4692-81c4-9f1ee0f1bd27/resource/77bf4940-4da6-4356-99ff-9111a88ab799/download/2016-annual-alberta-labour-market-review.pdf (accessed on  January 2023).

[23] Government of Alberta (2017), Oil sands facts and statistics, https://www.alberta.ca/oil-sands-facts-and-statistics.aspx (accessed on  January 2023).

[32] Government of Alberta (n.d.), Types of municipalities in Alberta, https://www.alberta.ca/types-of-municipalities-in-alberta.aspx#:~:text=Specialized%20municipalities%20are%20unique%20municipal,in%20a%20single%20municipal%20government (accessed on  January 2023).

[12] Government of Canada (2022), Labour Market Bulletin - Alberta: September 2022, https://jobbank-guichetemplois.service.canada.ca/LMBs/202209/WT/LMB_AB_2022_Sep.pdf (accessed on  November 2022).

[2] Hershbein, B. and L. Kahn (2016), Do Recessions Accelerate Routine-Biased Technological Change? Evidence from Vacancy Postings, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA, https://doi.org/10.3386/w22762.

[18] Levanon, G. (2022), U.S. Labor Market Outlook - November 2022, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/6197797102be715f55c0e0a1/t/63865c667d4e5637c709dfae/1669749863982/BGI_LaborMarketOutlook_Nov2022_Final.pdf.

[30] LMIC (2020), Sectors at Risk: The Impact of COVID-19 on the Canadian Tourism Industry, LMIC, https://lmic-cimt.ca/publications-all/lmi-insight-report-no-30-sectors-at-risk-the-impact-of-covid-19-on-the-canadian-tourism-industry/ (accessed on  November 2022).

[13] Mertz, E. (2022), Alberta nurses leaving front-line healthcare for less stressful units, jobs, https://globalnews.ca/news/9178513/alberta-nurses-frontline-health-stress-botox-pcn/ (accessed on  November 2022).

[1] OECD (2021), OECD Skills Outlook 2021: Learning for Life, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/0ae365b4-en.

[17] Poletto, C. (ed.) (2021), “Impact of essential workers in the context of social distancing for epidemic control”, PLOS ONE, Vol. 16/8, p. e0255680, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0255680.

[14] Randhawa, R. and J. Slack (2022), Alberta healthcare professionals are relocating from the province rapidly, https://calgary.citynews.ca/2022/03/25/alberta-healthcare-professionals-moving-out/ (accessed on  November 2022).

[20] Sood, S. (2021), Impact of COVID-19 on food services and drinking places, first quarter of 2021, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/45-28-0001/2021001/article/00010-eng.htm (accessed on  Novemberr 2022).

[26] Statistics Canada (2022), 2021 Census - Boundary files, https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2021/geo/sip-pis/boundary-limites/index2021-eng.cfm?year=21 (accessed on  June 2023).

[16] Statistics Canada (2022), Focus on Geography Series, 2021 Census of Population, https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2021/as-sa/fogs-spg/Page.cfm?Lang=E&Dguid=2021A000248&topic=11.

[8] Statistics Canada (2022), Table: 14-10-0023-01 (formerly CANSIM 282-0008), https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1410002301 (accessed on  November 2022).

[9] Statistics Canada (2022), Table: 14-10-0027-01 (formerly CANSIM 282-0012), https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1410002701 (accessed on  November 2022).

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[15] Statistics Canada (2021), The impact of telework on workers’ productivity and preferences, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210401/dq210401b-eng.htm (accessed on  January 2023).

[19] Statistics Canada (2020), Labour Force Survey, May 2020, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200605/dq200605a-eng.htm.

[25] Wang, W. (2021), The oil and gas sector in Canada: A year after the start of the pandemic, Statistics Canada, https://doi.org/10.25318/36280001202100700003-eng.

[21] Washburn, L. (2022), Health care support workers have been essential yet unappreciated in pandemic, study says, https://eu.northjersey.com/story/news/coronavirus/2022/01/24/health-care-workers-essential-yet-overlooked-nj-covid/6596478001/ (accessed on  November 2022).

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← 1. Results are also available, upon request to Alberta’s Department of Advanced Studies, using the Canadian National Occupational Classification.

← 2. These occupations characterise Alberta’s online job postings’ demand and their dynamics are particularly important for policy makers as they represent a large share of the demand published online in the province.

← 3. For more details on the Mining, Quarrying and Oil and Gas Extraction sector and the oil prices, see Chapter 2.

← 4. It is worth noting that data on job postings can also capture turnover and churn. Additionally, OJPs partially capture the increase in the use of online platforms to advertise jobs that used to be advertised in a different way, for instance through word of mouth or informal channels (see Box 1.1).

← 5. Total OJPs for which the minimum required education level is known. For the majority of OJPs the minimum required education level is unknown. In 2022 this requirement can be extracted for about 35% of postings. In 2021 it can be extracted for 28% and 29% in 2020.

← 6. An overrepresentation of demand for workers with higher degrees in OJPs could indicate a mismatch between the education level of the population and the labour demand by employers, though OJPs may also be naturally skewed towards jobs requiring college or higher qualifications. Similarly, credential inflation (i.e. the practice by employers of advertising educational requirements that are above the standards required for the job) may also be partly affecting the results, signalling some mild apparent mismatch. Carnevale, Jayasundera and Repnikov (2014[3]) found that jobs asking for a bachelor’s degree are more likely to be posted online, than jobs with a lower minimum education requirement.

← 7. The other 10% of Albertans have obtained either a non-apprenticeship trades certificate or an apprenticeship certificate.

← 8. In 2022 the minimum required education level of 65% of all OJPs was unknown. This is quite a reduction, as in 2021 72% were unknown and in 2020 it was 71%. It is possible that some of the OJPs in earlier years for which the minimum degree requirements were unknown, already searched for employees with high school as their education level. This would lead to an overestimation of the increase of demand for high school graduates.

← 9. Non-essential retail stores were allowed to open from 14 May onwards (Government of Alberta, 2020[10])

← 10. In particular, this author and co-authors looked at the experiences of Black and Latinx healthcare workers in support roles during the COVID-19 pandemic (Rivera-Núñez et al., 2022[31]).

← 11. The largest percentual increase can be found for the category: “Other Services”, which grew by 330%. In 2022, this industry accounts for 3.3% of the total number of OJPs for this education level for which the sector is known.

← 12. To aggregate OJPs a mapping from municipalities to service regions has been used. Service regions are a term used by Alberta Advanced Education, which refers to regions that have one or more post-secondary institutions. 96.1% of all OJPs in between 2015-2022 can be allocated to service regions.

← 13. Population data on regions provided by Alberta Advanced Education.

← 14. Medicine Hat, Northern Lakes, Portage, Lakeland and Keyano. In terms of population size, these regions combined are about 9.8% of the total population in the ages of 18-64.

← 15. Specialised municipalities are unique municipal structures that can be formed without resorting to special Acts of the Legislature. Often, specialised municipalities allow urban and rural communities to coexist in a single municipal government (Government of Alberta, n.d.[32]).

← 16. It is likely that OJPs in the greyed-out area around Calgary are attributed to the city of Calgary itself.

← 17. More details about the public administration sector can be found in Chapter 2.

← 18. Grande Prairie is the fourth largest region by volume of OJPs accounting for about 4% of total job postings in Alberta. In 2020, the number of average monthly OJPs decreased by 39.5%. (See Figure 1.9).

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