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Alberta's Labour Market Leads North America

Alberta is number one when it comes to labour market performance across North America, says a report released by the Fraser Institute on Thursday.

The think tank evaluated employment growth, private sector growth, rates and duration of unemployment and overall productivity in 10 Canadian provinces and all 50 American states between 2006 and 2010.

Alberta had the best-performing job market among all jurisdictions, with the highest total employment growth — including growth in the private sector — and the second-lowest duration of unemployment, the report said.

Saskatchewan came in second overall among all provinces and states, while Manitoba placed fourth, tied with North Dakota. B.C. was ranked at sixth place overall, tied with Wyoming.

“The Western provinces have evolved into labour market powerhouses, not only compared to the rest of Canada, but also to the United States,” said Amela Karabegović, a senior economist at the Fraser Institute who co-authored the report.

Labour markets in Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada, however, continue to be sluggish, the Vancouver-based group concluded.

Quebec tied with Virginia in 12th overall in North America, followed by Ontario and New Brunswick in a five-way tie for 16th place.

Nova Scotia was tied at 21st and Newfoundland and Labrador were tied at 32nd. Prince Edward Island was the lowest-ranked province, tied for 36th overall.

Ontario showed only paltry private-sector employment growth — outperforming just P.E.I. — while the unemployment rate stayed high, the report’s authors said.

"It's alarming that Canada's largest province ranks near the bottom on several performance indicators," Karabegović said.

Western and Midwestern U.S. states dominated the top of the rankings. Alaska, Utah, Wyoming and the Dakotas landed in the Top 10.

Michigan scored the lowest of any jurisdiction, ranking near the bottom on all five indicators.

Unions, public-sector jobs hinder performance: institute

The institute’s report also looked at public-sector employment levels, minimum wages, unionization levels and labour-relations laws — all factors which it says have a negative impact on labour market performance.

“The high rate of unionization among Canadian provinces is the result of biased, overly prescriptive labour-relations laws that inhibit the proper and efficient functioning of the labour market by favouring one group over another and inhibiting innovation and flexibility,” the institute said in a release.

The report rewarded Alberta with higher scores because of the province’s relatively low minimum wage and rates of unionization and public-sector employment.

Canada has an average total unionization rate of 31.5 per cent, compared to 13.1 per cent in the United States, the institute said.

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