The energy industry in Alberta has seen unexpected job growth in recent months due to a shortage of skilled labor in the province.

According to Alicia Planincic, economist and manager of policy at the Business Council of Alberta, the increase was largely driven by the construction, transportation, and warehousing sectors and exceeded the expectations of many economists.

The province's job vacancy rate was at 5% in the last quarter, with over 100,000 vacant jobs, while the unemployment rate in December remained steady at 5.8%.

The natural resources sector, including forestry, mining, and oil and gas extraction, saw a total employment drop of 4.6% from November and 3.3% year-over-year.

However, Planincic noted that fluctuations in this sector are not uncommon and overall, there are now more people employed in the industry than before the pandemic.

In fact, according to data from the Alberta government, the oil and gas industry in the province employed over 180,000 people in 2020, making it a major contributor to the economy.

The labor shortage is particularly prominent in the skilled trades, with a huge demand from businesses looking to hire. The participation rate, which measures the percentage of the labor force working or looking for work, increased to 69.1% in December.

This indicates that the job gains seen in the province are not just a result of people already looking for work finding employment, but rather a result of new people entering the labor force.

Total employment in Alberta was up by 89,000 in December, or 3.9%, compared to the same month the previous year. Employment in Canada as a whole rose by 104,000 jobs in December, and the unemployment rate declined by 0.1 percentage points to 5%.

The energy industry plays a crucial role in the economy of Alberta, with the oil and gas sector alone contributing over $11 billion in tax revenue in 2020.

It is also a major export industry for the province, with oil and gas accounting for over 60% of Alberta's total exports in 2019.

The continued growth and success of the energy industry in Alberta will depend on a strong and skilled workforce, making the current labor shortage a pressing issue that needs to be addressed.