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Take Reports of Alberta's Economic Demise with a Grain of Salt

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Alex Carrick

Positions:
Alex Carrick is Chief Economist for CanaData, Reed Construction Data’s Canadian economic forecasting and statistical service.

Economists

Take all the reports about the economic demise of Alberta with a grain of salt. In the latest quarter, the fastest population growth rate among all provinces in the country was recorded there (+0.59%), according to the latest demographic report from Statistics Canada. Second place went to Prince Edward Island (+0.53%). The territory of Nunavut actually outpaced all regions (+0.68%). The total Canada rate of increase was +0.36% (Q2/Q1).

Take all the reports about the economic demise of Alberta with a grain of salt. In the latest quarter, the fastest population growth rate among all provinces in the country was recorded there (+0.59%), according to the latest demographic report from Statistics Canada. Second place went to Prince Edward Island (+0.53%). The territory of Nunavut actually outpaced all regions (+0.68%). The total Canada rate of increase was +0.36% (Q2/Q1).

Alberta’s fall from grace has been greatly exaggerated. Some of the economic numbers may have turned down, that is true. Housing starts, home prices and labour markets are not as buoyant as they were. Some mega energy projects have been put on hold or cancelled. But this is affecting the province’s population growth to only a limited degree.

The Other Provinces

Manitoba (+0.48%), Saskatchewan (+0.44%) and British Columbia (+0.39%) – the other three western provinces – also had population growth rates faster than the national average in this year’s second quarter. Ontario (+0.34%) and Quebec (+0.31%) lagged, as did New Brunswick (+0.07%) and Nova Scotia (+0.05%). Newfoundland and Labrador (+0.28%) did pretty well versus history. While some regions are growing faster than others, the good news is that none are losing people. This is positive for local economies. It is a simple fact that the more individuals there are, the more spending that takes place.

Alberta’s second-quarter population gain this year, however, was well down from the second quarter of last year. There has not been the same level of interprovincial in-migration. Instead, the gain has come from natural sources (births) and immigration.

Saskatchewan had the highest second-quarter population increase since 1975. Manitoba’s second-quarter gain was its greatest since record-keeping began in 1971. Both of those provinces, as well as B.C., were beneficiaries of good immigration levels.

Net international migration in the country as a whole was the second highest on record for the second quarter since 1972. April to June of this year was also a good quarter for births. It was the largest number of second-quarter births since 1996. A trend to higher births has become evident in a number of industrialized countries, according to Statcan.

Ontario suffered interprovincial population losses. It is also not experiencing the same high levels of immigration as previously. For the past seven quarters, Ontario’s population growth has been below the national average. For Québec, the story has been mainly about births. The province just had the most second-quarter births since 1996.

P.E.I.’s second-quarter growth rate was its highest since 1978, mainly due to net foreign migration. Newfoundland experienced its highest second-quarter growth rate since 1983, mainly due to interprovincial migration. It was the fourth straight quarter of such gains.

Population Growth Rates vs Local Labour Markets

What is particularly interesting is to consider the population growth rates relative to local labour markets. The population increases are corresponding with strong labour markets in Saskatchewan (Regina and Saskatoon), Manitoba (Winnipeg) and Newfoundland (St. John’s). Generally speaking, Calgary and Edmonton are in the mid-range when it comes to year-over-year employment growth and unemployment rates among all CMAs.

When it comes to employment insurance, there has been a year-over-year doubling in the number of people receiving EI benefits in seven cities across the country – Calgary, Edmonton, Sudbury, Vancouver, Kitchener, Victoria and Abbotsford. Only in Ontario does does the population change match what is going on in local labour markets. Clearly individuals move to a region for more than just current jobs. Future prospects, most notably in the resource-rich west, would seem to be a major determining factor as well.

Alex Carrick

Find Canadian construction-related economic articles in Canadian Construction Market News and in the Economic Outlook section of Daily Commercial News. Mr. Carrick also has a lifestyle blog that can be reached by clicking here.

by Alex Carrick

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