Census data showed employment reached an estimated 16,021,200 in 2006, up 1,326,000 from 2001. Just two western provinces—Alberta and British Columbia—accounted for a third of this increase.
During the same five-year period, the unemployment rate fell in every province and territory, except Ontario and the Northwest Territories.
Over the five years, the 1.7% annual average national employment growth rate was surpassed only in Alberta (2.9%) and British Columbia (2.1%) and the three territories.
Alberta added 251,100 workers between 2001 and 2006, while British Columbia added 208,800. Growth in both provinces was spurred largely by gains in the construction industry and professional, scientific and technical services. In addition, Alberta got a big boost from mining, oil and gas extraction.
In British Columbia, the gain of 51,800 construction jobs accounted for one-quarter of total employment growth during the five-year period, an average annual rate of 8.3%. Growth also came from non-residential construction projects, such as initial building for the 2010 Winter Olympics. This may partly explain the big boost of 27,200 more workers in professional, scientific and technical services, including architects and engineers. In addition, employment for retail trade workers grew 17,800 from 2001 to 2006.
Nearly 45% of Alberta's total employment growth came from mining, oil and gas extraction, construction and health and social assistance. In fact, employment in mining and oil and gas extraction industries increased by 47,400 in Alberta, an annual pace of 9.7%. This was more than three times faster than the rate of annual employment growth in Canada.
Construction employment in Alberta rose by 39,700, an average of 5.8% a year. This was the result of a housing boom, as workers from other provinces moved westward, attracted by abundant employment prospects. The province also had a large increase of 25,200 health care and social assistance workers, a 3.2% annual average gain.
As in British Columbia, Alberta saw a 27,000 increase in workers employed in professional, scientific and technical services, an average annual increase of 4.3%.
Growth was also strong in the three territories, particularly the Northwest Territories1 and Nunavut; employment in both rose at an average annual rate of 2.6%. The opening or development of new diamond mines in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut contributed to this overall growth. However, in Nunavut, the biggest source of employment growth was hiring in public administration.