Job Market Trends and News

NDP job strategy could be working for them

Psst, wanna know a little secret? I’ve discovered there could well be a devious method in this provincial government’s economic madness.

But hang on: first we need to back up just a teeny weeny bit. OK, so right now many Calgarians blithely assume that come the next election, the New Democrats in power will be swept away just as quickly as Alberta’s ‘Triple A’ credit rating. Ah, don’t count those political chickens quite yet.

Of course, the most likely scenario leading to a repeat NDP victory is a failure of the Tories and Wildrose parties to get their collective political acts together. Given the glacial and desultory pace we’ve seen so far in this slow, slow, quick, quick, slow merger dance, such an eventual outcome is not out of the question before we gallantly troop off to the polls again.

Many folk already suspect such a possibility. Yet it’s doubtful the NDP are content to simply sit about and hope the ‘push-me-pull-me’ beast of opposition infighting continues having its collective wits scrambled. Not when their jobs depend upon it. In fact, right from the start of their time in power, the NDP — through either gut instinct or deliberate, premeditated cunning — embraced a route to try to ensure future electoral success.

In short, that would involve getting more and more people to rely upon the government for a regular paycheque and accompanying benefits. Because, once trapped in that velvet coffin, most reasonable folk are quite reluctant to risk hauling themselves up, out and into the cold, dark world of the current private sector in this province.

But that’s rhetoric and most people in Calgary are as tired of that these days as they are of gorging on corn dogs after 10 days visiting the Stampede grounds. So we need to look at actual numbers and ignore such noise.

Let’s skip those month-by-month Alberta employment report comparisons, which can be skewed by various one-off occurrences in any 30-day time frame. Instead, let’s get our teeth into a big, tasty mouthful of data. Yes, let’s go back to the start of 2015, when oil prices were in three figures, you couldn’t rent a place in Calgary and we thought we were the very bees’ knees of economic success.

Yes, a long time ago, we had 4.6 per cent unemployment in our city.

And where were those jobs? In January 2015 — 30 months ago — there were 665,000 people working in the goods-producing sector, which consists of areas such as mining, agriculture, construction and manufacturing. In the service sector, there were 1,646,000 people somewhat happily working away.

Last month’s numbers looked far different. Sure there were more unemployed and the workforce had expanded with the relentless increase in population, but those with actual jobs tell a salient and silent tale. In the goods-producing sector, there was a loss of 90,000 jobs compared to January 2015, while in the service sector we added 76,000 positions.

So, in that service sector, where were these new jobs? And remember this was during a time in which Alberta saw two years of negative GDP growth? The answer: in education 34,000, in health care 29,000, and in public administration the number of added staff was 15,000.

Apologies for all those numbers but, to simplify things, we’ve replaced tens of thousands of jobs in the private sector with workers in the public arena.

Now ask yourself, does such a significant trend benefit or hinder our current government when we come to the next provincial election? Go on, be a devil: have a guess.

Chris Nelson is a Calgary writer.

Published by Calgary Herald