Mario ToneguzziAlberta and British Columbia have been the country’s economic growth leaders since 2000 and will continue to be so this year, says a new report released on Monday by Scotiabank Economics.

The bank’s latest Provincial Outlook said both western provinces will see economic growth of 2.4 per cent this year, eclipsing the Canadian average of 2.1 per cent.

Between 2000 and 2017, Alberta and B.C. led the country with the annual average economic growth of 2.8 per cent while Canada’s growth was 2.2 per cent.

“Expectations of moderating consumer spending across the provinces still underlie our forecast. Slower job creation is the proximate cause in net oil consuming regions. Waning Fort McMurray rebuild-related outlays are negating Alberta’s year-to-date hiring pickup,” said the report.

The report said Alberta’s improving employment prospects and competitive wages are increasing its draw of people moving to the province following the 2015-16 recession.

Scotiabank is forecasting Alberta’s economy to continue to grow by 2.5 per cent in 2019 and by 2.0 per cent in 2020. It’s another sign that the province’s economy is slowly recovering from the tough years of 2015 and 2016, following the collapse in oil prices in the latter half of 2014.

Between 2000 and 2017, Alberta’s annual average employment gain of 2.2 per cent was the highest in the country, while Canada’s average was 1.4 per cent.

The report said the province will experience employment gains of 1.8 per cent this year, 1.2 per cent in 2019 and 1.2 per cent in 2020.

Over the 2000 to 2017 period, Alberta’s unemployment rate averaged 5.2 per cent annually while Canada’s averaged 7.1 per cent.

Unemployment in province is forecast to fall to 6.6 per cent this year from 7.8 per cent in 2017 and will continue to drop to 6.5 per cent in 2019 and 6.4 per cent in 2020.

“Alberta’s steady forecast gains in capital outlays on non-residential buildings reflect construction of petrochemicals and conventional oil and gas facilities. Volatility in the light-heavy oil price differential due to insufficient pipeline capacity continues to pose significant downside risk for investment in both Alberta and Saskatchewan,” said the report.

Mario Toneguzzi is a veteran Calgary-based journalist who worked for 35 years for the Calgary Herald, including 12 years as a senior business writer.

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