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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 noted that vaccinations were key to Alberta’s recovery, and largely this has held true. Increasing vaccination rates, strong consumer activity, high commodity prices, and the opening of the US land border are positive signs of recovery and opportunity. In fact, Alberta’s employment recovery is now in line with other provinces across Canada.

However, this snapshot also lays bare the continued medium- and longer-term challenges for the province, including global supply chain disruptions, changing skills needs, low capital investment, and more. Addressing these challenges head on and strategically could enable future opportunities.

Highlights

  • Despite the positive trend in employment recovery, many Albertans are still experiencing unemployment or underemployment. While the official unemployment rate sits at 7.5% as of September 2021 (unadjusted for seasonality), factoring in those who are underemployed (discouraged workers, those awaiting call backs, or those working part-time but would like to work full-time) increases this rate significantly—to 10%. Long-term unemployment is an issue we continue to monitor. Check out our recent paper on the trends and challenges of long-term unemployment for more information.
  • Mental health is a rising concern. As of the most recent data, one in four Canadians screened positive for at least one mental disorder. This is up from one in five in Fall 2020. The risk is magnified for women and younger and lower-income Canadians, in particular. Check out our recent op-ed on the current mental health crisis for more.
  • Manufacturing sales continue to grow, and the sector shines brightly in the province’s pathway in recovery. Other positive movements include high commodity prices (especially in oil & natural gas) and strong consumer demand.
  • Inflation is a growing concern for businesses as the global supply chain continues to experience disruptions, driven largely by a sharp increase in consumer demand for products such as electronics, creating an increase in demand for inputs. This pressure has left some significant shortages in its wake, and these twin issues are among the top concerns for companies around the world.

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

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

Download October 2021 Snapshot

Indicators

Alberta's Employment Recovery

A large number of Albertans remain un- or under-employed

Peeling back the layers of unemployment shows more Albertans are struggling financially than the headline rate suggests—and more so than in other provinces. Some individuals have given up searching or are awaiting a call back. The biggest concern, however, is the large number of Albertans who are working part-time but would like to be working full-time. Including these individuals increases the unemployment rate by nearly 20%.

Mental health issues weigh heavily on young adults

Things might be slowly returning to normal, but not all Canadians feel this way. A survey from Statistics Canada found 1 in 4 Canadians screened positively for at least one mental health disorder compared with 1 in 5 in the fall of 2020. Age is an important factor: younger Canadians are the most likely to be struggling. More recent data from IPSOS in September show that women and lower-income Canadians are most at risk. This is especially a concern in Alberta where many young women remain out of the workforce.

Alberta Retail Sales
GDP % and Growth Forecast

Global recovery also continues at a slower pace

According to the IMF’s October World Economic Outlook, the strength of recovery has waned and the divide between rich nations with vaccine and fiscal capacity, and poorer nations without, persists. Supply disruptions for advanced economies and worsening pandemic outcomes in low-income developing countries led the IMF to revise down their 2021 forecast. While most economies will recover by 2022 in terms of GDP, many will not recover in terms of employment. This is especially true among emerging economies, with little capacity to provide income support.

Persistent unemployment and rising job vacancies signal the need for relevant skills training

In spite of still-high unemployment, Alberta is not lacking for available jobs. Job postings have increased ~50% since pre-COVID—more than any other large province. This apparent contradiction highlights the extent and scale of the labour market adjustment taking place, as well as the urgent policy need to equip Albertans with relevant skills. National job postings data shed some light on where those might be. There is a clear and growing need for analytical skills (e.g. software development) as well as skilled trades (e.g. construction).

Alberta Retail Sales

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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