Unemployment rates soar in Alberta as local economy sinks

As Alberta feels the pain of the sinking price of oil, tens of thousands of people have lost jobs in the province and more layoffs are expected.

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On Friday, Statistics Canada is set to release the results of its year-end labour force survey, which is likely to further confirm the hard times so many in Alberta are going through.

Once a booming economy, the province is now struggling, and it’s unclear when things could pick up again.

The provincial government says 66,000 Albertans were laid off last year. With so many newly unemployed, families are finding it hard to make ends meet.

Six months ago, Jason Wrobel lost his job as a heavy-equipment foreman.

“I had enough in savings to go comfortably for about three months,” Wrobel told CTV News. “Then we got to the point where we were looking for friends’ help and handouts and having to use the food bank.”

Wrobel has been looking for work, but with hundreds vying for every job, it’s been difficult.

“It’s tough,” he said. “You feel like a failure as a father.”

In Edmonton, Ray Belmore was laid off from his job with a trucking company. “I asked them, ‘Did I do anything wrong, is there a reason why I’m being let go?’ They said, ‘No, just economical,’” Belmore said.

Todd Hirsch, chief economist with ATB, says there are likely more layoffs to come in Alberta.

“I do think that there will be more rounds of layoffs coming in the first quarter, possibly even in the second quarter of 2016,” Hirsch said. “All in the process of these energy companies getting their costs down.”

A recent BMO report reveals Alberta has the highest average household debt of any province.

And the number of people declaring bankruptcy is approaching a five-year high.

Even real estate -- once red-hot in Calgary -- has cooled, with sales down by more than 25 per cent in one year.

It’s all connected to the crash in crude oil, but it is unclear when prices will recover.

“That might be a year or two or three years away,” Hirsch said. “At this point, it’s difficult to say because even with oil at 33 dollars a barrel, it doesn’t appear yet that the market has quite found a bottom.”

With a report by CTV’s Janet Dirks


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