Alberta Sees Job Growth This Year and Next, But Ex-Fossil Workers Aren’t So Sure
The Conference Board of Canada is projecting job growth in Alberta this year, as oil prices duck back above the US$50 per barrel mark, but the Petroleum Services Association of Canada is warning that some of those positions may be hard to fill.
“While energy investment in Alberta will remain sluggish, oil production is set to rise, and that will give a boost to most major industries in both cities,” CBC reports, citing the Conference Board’s Metropolitan Outlook: Spring 2017. “Following two years of declines, the tide is turning for Calgary and Edmonton,” the report stated.
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The Ottawa-based think tank expects Calgary to add 9,000 jobs this year and 10,000 in 2018, after losing 12,500 last year. Edmonton will gain 5,700 this year, far beyond last year’s total of 170.
But in its report citing the Petroleum Services Association, Bloomberg warns that “after years of being a magnet for job seekers, Canada’s oilpatch is turning into a bit of a no-go place—and that’s making a recovery harder.” The industry’s challenge is that “massive job cuts in the past years left lasting bad memories. Many who had moved there returned to their home provinces and found jobs in construction, mining, fishing, or forestry,” and “as producers seek to shift back to growth gear, the labour shortage adds another headwind to an industry challenged by high costs and middling crude prices.”
“We’re firing up more rigs, we’re firing up more frack spreads, and we need more crews and more equipment, but those extra people aren’t coming back,” said PSAC President Mark Salkeld.
Dale Dusterhoft, CEO of Trican Well Service Ltd., said his company missed out on $15 million in revenue because it couldn’t staff up. “We can’t really get them all as quick as we want,” he told Bloomberg, “so it probably delays our growth a little.”
Essential Energy Services Ltd. CEO Garnet Amundson said potential employees are skeptical about job security, not just concerned about the outsized salaries they were able to command when oil was above $100 per barrel. “When we went to try and bring some of those folks back, the most common question we got was, ‘Do you have steady work?’” he told Bloomberg. “‘If I come back, how do I know I’m not going to be laid off in three or six months again?’”
The report indicates the labour shortage isn’t unique to Canada—fracking companies in the U.S. underspent their budget by $2.5 million in the first quarter of this year because they couldn’t hire enough crews to staff their rigs (in spite of the wave of job automation that is beginning to sweep the industry).