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What Whitney Issik left out about women workers

Alberta’s associate minister of the status of women was praising employment data for women workers in the province last week, but she left out a few details.

Last week, Alberta’s associate minister of the status of women, Whitney Issik, released a statement about the economic recovery of women workers in Alberta.

There were a few things that she said that need clarification, as well as a few things she forgot to mention that I figured I should add in for some context.

Alberta’s government has been leading a coordinated effort to identify opportunities for action and collaboration in supporting the economic recovery of women in Alberta, and today’s job numbers tell us that our initiatives are working.

She’s referring to the job numbers for December that Statistics Canada released last Friday, and which I wrote about in yesterday’s news story, probably the most comprehensive coverage of Alberta’s employment situation in December 2021.

But I wanted to draw your attention to that last bit: “today’s job numbers tell us that our initiatives are working.” If that’s true, then Alberta should be succeeding in multiple areas.

Well, let’s investigate that a bit further, shall we?

Women in Alberta are leading the nation with a 60.6% employment rate, while unemployment across the province has dropped to its lowest rate since before the pandemic.

It is definitely true that in Alberta, female workers 15 year old and older saw the highest employment rate among all provinces in December 2021.

AB60.0%
SK58.9%
MB58.6%
QC57.9%
BC57.6%
ON57.3%
PEI55.5%
NS54.8%
NB53.5%
NL48.7%

What Issik isn’t telling you however is that the employment rate in December is unchanged from November in Alberta. What has changed, however, is the participation rate.

The participation rate is the percentage of the population participating in the labour force. And ours increased from 64.8% in November for female workers 15 and up to 65% in December.

And if the employment rate stays the same even if there are more people entering the labour market, that means that inevitably what will go up is the unemployment rate.

Nov
2021
Dec
2021
Change
NL7.08.41.4
AB7.37.60.3
NS7.67.4-0.2
NB7.57.0-0.5
ON6.26.50.3
PEI5.85.90.1
SK4.84.90.1
MB4.54.80.3
QC3.54.40.9
BC4.74.4-0.3

Alberta had the second highest unemployment rate for female workers among all the provinces and was tied for the third highest increase in unemployment over the last month.

I’m not sure where Issik is getting the idea that “unemployment across the province has dropped to its lowest rate since before the pandemic”.

And just so we’re clear, unemployment for female workers in Alberta in February 2020, the month before the government implemented public health restrictions, was 6.9%. We’re still nearly a full percentage point higher than that.

Alberta’s Recovery Plan is a broad-based approach that is building, diversifying and creating jobs across the province while having women at the forefront.

That’s an interesting claim.

Alberta saw an increase of 11,100 jobs in December 2021, compared to November. Of those, female workers saw 1,400. That’s only 12.6%. How were women at the forefront of job creation in December if men made up 87.4% of the new workers?

Not only that, but when you compare December 2021 data with that of the previous December, we find that a large chunk of new jobs created for female workers were part-time.

Males, full-time1,025,3001,092,00066,700
Males, part-time130,300127,000-3,300
Females, full-time741,700773,00031,300
Females, part-time263,300298,40035,100

Female workers saw 35,100 more part-time jobs in December 2021 than in December 2020, compared to 31,300 full-time jobs. Male workers, on the other hand, had 3,300 fewer part-time jobs than they did the year before by 66,700 more full-time jobs.

The male workers ended up with 68.1% of all the new full-time jobs, and female workers ended up with 100% of all the new part-time jobs.

Not only that, but check out this table, which displays the proportion of women working in part-time jobs, in each province.

Women in
workforce
Women
working PT
PT as % of
workforce
BC1,289,600366,60028.43%
MB312,00087,10027.92%
AB1,071,500298,40027.85%
SK261,20062,30023.85%
QC2,066,100486,90023.57%
ON3,621,100850,80023.50%
NS234,80055,00023.42%
PEI38,5009,00023.38%
NB178,70034,30019.19%
NL110,80021,20019.13%

Alberta has the third highest proportion of women working in part-time jobs. The month before—November 2021—the proportion of women workers in part-time jobs was 27.93% in Alberta, and it was the second highest in Canada. That’s progress, right?

Well, in December 2020, that proportion was 26.2%. So, last month the proportion of women working part-time in Alberta was lower than a month before but still higher than the year before.

I guess I can see why Issik would cherry pick the data like she did. The employment rate was one of the few positive aspects of December 2021’s employment data. And calling it “positive” is being generous.

One final thing. You might be wondering where all the jobs for women workers were lost and created.

Well, here’s the change in jobs between November and December 2021, according to Statistics Canada data.

Nov
2021
Dec
2021
Diff
Health care and social assistance244,100251,4007,300
Transportation and warehousing32,50037,9005,400
Accommodation and food services72,80076,6003,800
Other services (except public administration)44,20045,9001,700
Real estate and rental and leasing14,80016,3001,500
Public administration56,00057,4001,400
Profess., scientific & technical services83,10084,3001,200
Information, culture and recreation36,60037,6001,000
Business, build. & other support services34,50035,000500
Wholesale trade23,70023,400-300
Agriculture9,0008,400-600
Utilities5,7005,100-600
Manufacturing32,10031,500-600
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas 30,00029,300-700
Finance and insurance43,40040,600-2,800
Construction34,20030,500-3,700
Retail trade148,600144,100-4,500
Educational services128,700122,800-5,900

And here is the change in jobs for women workers in Alberta between December 2020 and December 2021.

Dec
2020
Dec
2021
Diff
Public administration41,60057,40015,800
Retail trade129,000144,10015,100
Accommodation and food services63,20076,60013,400
Information, culture and recreation26,30037,60011,300
Transportation and warehousing27,50037,90010,400
Health care and social assistance244,700251,4006,700
Profess., scientific, technical services78,60084,3005,700
Educational services117,300122,8005,500
Business, build., other support services30,20035,0004,800
Other services (except public admin)42,10045,9003,800
Wholesale trade20,80023,4002,600
Real estate and rental and leasing14,40016,3001,900
Agriculture9,9008,400-1,500
Construction34,20030,500-3,700
Utilities8,9005,100-3,800
Manufacturing35,80031,500-4,300
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas35,40029,300-6,100
Finance and insurance50,90040,600-10,300

Oh, and once more, like I mentioned yesterday, the data doesn’t include non-binary workers, and neither did Issik’s statement, for that matter.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on municipal, provincial, and federal politics, specializing in investigative journalism and critical analysis from a leftist political lens. He also writes regular editorials on general politics and social issues.

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