The February employment numbers from StatsCan arrived in our inbox last week, indicating a slight increase of 0.2% in unemployment over February 2016. The current unemployment rate for the city sits at 8% and nearly one percent better than the provincial average of 8.8%. Also, it is significantly lower than a few months earlier when unemployment reached 13% in July 2016.
Hiring fairs in the oil and gas sector held in February could result in a continued decrease in the unemployment rate moving forward into March and more fairs keep popping up. Calfrac is holding a fourth fair tomorrow to search for fracturing supervisors and operators.
More oilfield activity could be seen as predicted oil prices make a 2.1% rebound this year as West Texas Intermediate could touch the US$50-55 range. Also, natural gas prices are also forecasted to make a gradual recovery in 2017 up to $3.20 /MMBtu.
New statistics from Alberta Economic Development and Trade show that the largest increases in Employment Insurance claims in Alberta cities increased between 94-186% in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to 2015. Like many Alberta cities, Medicine Hat is also seeing more people receiving EI, 50% more than in 2015, falling into the middle category.
With an uptick in the job market and a ready workforce, there is reason for cautious optimism in Medicine Hat.