British Columbia is expected to absorb a wave of displaced workers flooding the province this year and next as neighbouring Alberta sinks deeper into recession.
The pull factor for the shifting population trend is B.C.’s “stellar” economy. “British Columbia’s economy will move into high gear this year,” a forecast from The Conference Board of Canada says.
The B.C. economy will post real growth of 2.7 per cent in 2016, or the fastest pace in the country, according to the forecast. “This will encourage more Canadians — particularly those in struggling oil-producing provinces — to move,” the report released Tuesday said.
Population inflows to B.C. are rebounding sharply from the days when interprovincial migration was headed in the other direction. In 2012, B.C. saw a net migration out of the province during Alberta’s post-recession boom (see chart below).
Population inflows began picking up in late 2014 as oil prices first began to slide and continued to accelerate through 2015. This year, nearly 20,000 interprovincial migrants – many if not most likely from Alberta — will make their way west, with another strong gain expected in 2017.
The report says real economic growth in Alberta will contract by another 1.1 per cent this year after last year’s 2.9 per cent fall.
“The impacts on the job and housing markets, consumer spending, migration trends, and supplier industries will send Alberta’s economy into another tailspin,” the Conference Board said.
Brighter jobs picture
The employment picture in B.C. looks far brighter. A new multi-billion-dollar government contract to build non-combat vessels under the National Shipbuilding Program and a new liquefied natural gas terminal being constructed by energy giant Petronas will help boost manufacturing and construction jobs.
A hot residential property market is also “poised to post healthy gains over the next few years,” the report predicts. The tourism sector will also benefit from the low loonie, which in turn will benefit the accommodation and food services industry.
“The outlook for job creation is bright,” the Conference Board says.