Job growth has flatlined across the country — except in Alberta

Construction tradesmen in Calgary build portable housing bound for workers in the oil sands. CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Jeff McIntosh

The February jobs report released by Statistics Canada last week is driving home a trend experts have been taking note of: Alberta’s economy is leaving the rest of the country in the dust.

While last month’s labour force survey painted a dismal jobs picture across much of the country, Alberta was the major exception.

A potent energy sector is the engine of a provincial economy that is booming, registering a pop of 18,000 jobs or 3.8 per cent last month while the rest of the country laboured under lacklustre or even negative job growth.

READ MORE: February’s ‘disappointing’ jobs report in one handy graphic

“It’s rare to see that wide of a gap,” BMO economist Robert Kavcic said. “Alberta’s up four percent and nobody else is above one.”

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In all, there were six provinces with fewer jobs last month than a year earlier.

“In a nutshell, the economy is just outperforming the rest of Canada by a pretty wide margin,” Kavcic said.

“Energy is at the core of it but that spills into everything from construction activity, the housing market and consumer spending,” the BMO economist said.

BMO expects Alberta’s economy to grow by 3.5 per cent this year, a full percentage point above the next best-performing province (Saskatchewan, 2.5 per cent) and well above the 2.3 per cent growth expected in Ontario and the national rate, which are the same.

“That pretty much sets Alberta on an island,” Kavcic said.

Not, surprisingly, those sunnier prospects are attracting droves of people from across Canada and abroad.

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No less than 50,000 Canadians from other provinces are expected to migrate to Alberta this year – the strongest clip in three decades, experts say, outpacing the waves seen in the heady days of the province’s initial oil boom in the mid-2000s.

Kavcic said that with the kind of population inflows the province is seeing, “homebuilders could get increasingly busy in the next year or two.”

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