August 13, 2021

New survey shows looming labour shortage in Alberta

ALBERTA, CANADA—While it may seem odd to be talking about labour shortages at a time when Alberta has a still high rate of unemployment and the highest long-term unemployment rate in the country—2.4% as of the July Labour Force Survey—there is evidence of a looming labour shortage, according to a new survey conducted by the Alberta Chambers of Commerce and the Business Council of Alberta. While an improving hiring environment is welcome news for Albertans, labour market gaps could pose real risks for Alberta’s recovery—for both people and business.

Key Highlights:

  • Half of respondents anticipate increasing their staffing levels over the next 12 months, and only 6% expect to decrease their staffing levels, which is good news for those looking for work in Alberta.
  • However, nearly half (47%) of businesses are experiencing moderate to significant staffing shortages, which is having an impact on production, sales, and growth efforts.
  • The top barriers that businesses are facing when recruiting include lack of applicants (54%), competition from other employers for top talent (48%), and a lack of required skills.
  • There is evidence that government support programs such as the Alberta Jobs Now program are helping. In fact, one-third of those expecting to increase their workforce in the next year plan to apply for Alberta Jobs Now program. The other two-thirds plan to offer incentives to attract talent, including flexible work arrangements, skills training, and/or expanded benefits.
  • The impact of income support programs as a deterrent for potential employees was cited by one quarter of respondents, but only deemed to be the most important factor by 7%.

The survey, which was distributed through the Business Council of Alberta, Alberta Chambers of Commerce, and CPHR Alberta, was conducted to help understand the experiences and expectations of Alberta businesses regarding their hiring needs over the next year as well as any hiring challenges businesses are currently experiencing.

The survey was designed with the input of the Government of Alberta to ensure it responded to key questions, and the results of the survey were provided to government for consideration in developing policy.

The survey was in field June 24-July 9, 2021, and received responses from 487 businesses across the province and of all sizes.

“As we navigate economic recovery, it’s incumbent upon us to plan for tomorrow as well as today. Despite Alberta’s current unemployment rate, these data show future gaps—and therefore opportunities—in certain segments of our labour market. Attracting, training, and retaining skilled workers will help ensure Albertans are able to fully participate in our changing economy.”

Ken Kobly, President and CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce

“Alberta is seeing an improved labour market since the depths of the pandemic, and in some roles, there are real shortages. While a tight labour market can have positives, including acting to draw people to our province, and to increase wages, when significant shortages and vacancies occur, it can create overheated wage inflation. More importantly, it can simply make it hard to have companies and organizations run at the levels they need. This results in delays, slower business growth, higher costs and challenges accessing products and services. That is when it becomes a drag on our recovery and economy – and we are getting very close to that in certain sectors.”

Adam Legge, President of Business Council of Alberta

“A key part of Alberta’s recovery plan is getting Albertans back to work. While it is encouraging to see good jobs becoming available, we must also make sure that people are ready to fill these positions. The Alberta government launched the Alberta Jobs Now program to give people an opportunity to gain the skills they need in today’s job market, which will help businesses grow their workforce and strengthen the province’s economy.”

Honourable Jason Copping, Minister of Labour and Immigration


About Alberta Chambers of Commerce. The Alberta Chambers of Commerce is a federation of 121 community-based chambers of commerce representing more than 24,000 job creators.

About the Business Council of Alberta. The Business Council of Alberta is a non-partisan, for-purpose organization dedicated to building a better Alberta within a more dynamic Canada. Composed of the chief executives and leading entrepreneurs of the province’s largest enterprises, Council members are proud to represent the majority of Alberta’s private sector investment, job creation, exports, and research and development. The Council is committed to working with leaders and stakeholders across Alberta and Canada in proposing bold and innovative public policy solutions and initiatives that will make life better for Albertans.

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