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Alberta Snapshot

A Quarterly Economic Update

A quarterly economic overview, the Alberta Snapshot helps you make sense of where Alberta’s economy is headed.

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.

Explore the latest update through the graphs below or by downloading the report below.

The pulse of Alberta’s economy, delivered right to your inbox every quarter.

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.

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. July 2021.
Alberta Snapshot: A Quarterly Economic Update.

Download July 2021 Snapshot

Indicators

Alberta's Employment Recovery

Lifting restrictions improves the male-female employment gap but gap remains

As restrictions eased in June, women saw big job gains, while for unrelated reasons, young men saw steep declines. It is too soon to know if the impact on young men will last, but it is clear that among those 25 – 54 women’s employment rate continues to trail men’s. With restrictions more fully lifted in July, next month’s data will give our first sense of how sustained the gender-based impacts of the pandemic will be.

Canadians are shopping in store again—but in other respects still stay closer to home

Though retail spending has remained high in Alberta and across Canada since last fall, the nature of this spending was very different: more online sales, home goods & food, and less clothing & gas. The Economist’s normalcy index, however, shows this is changing: retail foot traffic in Canada regained considerable ground in June as restrictions eased. However, public transport, office use, and flights lag, and remain well below the global average.

Alberta Retail Sales
GDP % and Growth Forecast

Alberta’s was harder hit and has further to climb

Alberta was clearly the hardest-hit province in 2020 and will have the longest road to recovery. While most provinces saw GDP decline by 4-5%, Alberta saw an 8% decrease due to the price collapse of oil. Though Alberta’s economy is expected to grow faster than other provinces’ in 2021, it has more ground to make up. GDP is expected to remain 2% below 2019 levels this year, a period during which Alberta’s unemployment—and long-term unemployment—were already high.

Explore Deeper: Businesses and startup activity by industry in Alberta

Looking past recovery and toward growth, there are some signs of a broad shift in employment and business activity from goods and services. For example, industries like manufacturing have fewer businesses than before but also limited activity, which would normally indicate growth. Industries like real estate or construction might have fewer active businesses but are seeing more opening activity.

Use this interactive graph to explore business openings and closing across Canada, including regions and industries.

Click the arrow in the grey bar to expand the graph.

Archived Reports

All past issues of the Alberta Snapshot will be available for download below.

Contact

This report is produced by and the property of the Business Council of Alberta. For more information, please contact:

Mike Holden, Vice President, Policy & Chief Economist
mholden@businesscouncilab.com
Twitter: @MHoldenAB

Media Inquiries: media@businesscouncilab.com

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