July 13, 2021

Lifted restrictions are triggering big improvements in hard-hit sectors, companies looking to hire

We know there is so much economic data and information out there, and that you want a way to see it all in a snapshot with a view looking forward and not just back. That’s why we created the Alberta Snapshot, a quarterly executive summary that helps you keep the pulse on what is happening in Alberta’s economy—the good, bad, and urgent.

We use a wide and diverse range of indicators including data on jobs, consumer spending and debt, business openings and closings, population growth, economic forecasts, and more to assess and synthesize economic activity, business conditions, and social well-being in a way that is meaningful to Albertans and Alberta businesses.

Alberta Snapshot Summer 2021—Key Insights

In our last update, we said that vaccinations are one of the best pathways to recovery. And largely, this has been the case in Alberta.

Alberta’s strong vaccination rates and low COVID case counts over the past quarter have allowed restrictions to be eased which, in turn, has led to a rebound in employment in hard hit sectors such as food and accommodation. There has also been increased optimism among businesses and consumers as retail traffic is strong and business hiring expectations have continued to improve.

And while this is all great news, new questions are emerging about Alberta’s full recovery and economic growth.

As we start to get a glimpse of Alberta’s economy post restrictions, it seems clear that weakness in the foundations for economic growth remain. And, even if all goes well with a smooth recovery and no fourth wave emerges, the makeup of the Alberta economy may never be exactly as it was before the pandemic.

With that in mind, we must now turn our attention to the long term. Among other factors, Alberta must consider the increasing role of education in the Alberta economy; longer-term consequences of gender imbalances in recovery; what will attract young Canadians to Alberta in the future; and how to attract broad-based capital investment and early-stage venture funding.

Report Highlights:

As of June, Alberta’s employment rate is about 2% points below pre-COVID levels—about in line with other provinces. While women saw big job gains because of eased restrictions, the employment rate for women aged 24-54 still trails the employment rate for men in the same age group.

Alberta is experiencing many tailwinds that are driving its economic recovery: strong vaccination rates, low COVID case counts, strong commodity prices, and optimism in business hiring expectations and consumer retail spending. Though Alberta is expected to grow at a faster rate than other provinces, we have much more ground to make up considering the province was the hardest hit in 2020.

As economic activity resumes, Alberta businesses increasingly are looking to get people back to work: 66% of respondents to BCA’s Business Expectations Survey expect to add workers. However, they are increasingly faced with a tight labour market: 52% of business respondents indicate difficulty in hiring is restricting their ability to meet demand. This, despite the fact that Alberta continues to have the highest rate of long-term unemployment in Canada. There are early indications of a mismatch of skills coupled with increased interest in career changes among workers.

As we look towards life post-restrictions, we must shift our thinking away from just getting back to pre-COVID levels of economic activity. There are two key concerns here: First, migration to Alberta has declined. Since 2015, Canadians in other provinces are less likely to move to Alberta. Second, planned capital investment (machinery and equipment, new facilities)—an important driver of economic growth—remains well below historical levels.

As we map out our economic future, we need to think about education and skill development, long-term consequences of the gender imbalances in recovery, how to attract young people to the province, and how to attract capital investment.

If you would like to use this report in a publication, please use the following citation.

Business Council of Alberta. Summer 2021.
Alberta Snapshot: A Quarterly Economic Update for Alberta.

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