July 16, 2021

Weekly EconMinute—International immigration to Alberta

In this week’s EconMinute, we’re talking about international immigration to Alberta.

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Alberta’s share of newcomers in any given time period shows how attractive this province is as a place to live for prospective Canadians.

When individuals and families around the world choose to immigrate to Canada, they also must decide where specifically to start their life. In this way, provinces compete for newcomers. New immigrants help to bolster local demand and labour markets and are also known to bring new ideas and entrepreneurialism.

Because more populous regions generally draw a larger number of immigrants than less populous ones, we compare Alberta’s share of the total Canadian population with the percentage of newcomers who choose to locate in Alberta. If, say, 20% of newcomers to Canada locate in Alberta, but Alberta accounts for just 10% of the Canadian population, that would indicate Alberta is relatively attractive to prospective immigrants. So how likely are newcomers to Canada to choose Alberta?

  • Through the early 2000s, newcomers were less likely to choose to start their new life in Alberta. Though Alberta represented about 10% of the population at the time, it attracted just 6 to 7% of newcomers.
  • This quickly started to change thereafter. Beginning in 2010, Alberta was very attractive to newcomers.
  • In fact, at the height of the commodity boom, Alberta was a magnet for immigration, attracting as much as 18% of newcomers to the province.
  • Even after the collapse, international immigration to Alberta remained disproportionately high for the next few years.
  • More recently, however, this has changed. Alberta has attracted fewer prospective Canadians, with about 13% of newcomers locating in the province, just slightly above what you might expect based on Alberta’s size.
  • The most recent data for the first quarter of 2021 show this nosedived further to 9%. That said, this may be an outlier: immigration has been impacted greatly by the pandemic and travel restrictions.
  • It will be important to watch how Alberta’s ability to attract newcomers changes—and how it can be improved—after the economy recovers and immigration returns to Canada.

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