Economic challenges will continue to weigh on Alberta and Calgary in 2019: economists

Outlook for Calgary economy challenging according to Calgary Economic Development
WATCH: Calgary Economic Development released its 2019 economic outlook. Tomasia DaSilva reports on what economists believe is ahead.

Calgary Economic Development, in partnership with ATB Financial, released its 2019 economic outlook on Wednesday and it’s a challenging one.

Economists told a large Calgary crowd that although the recession is officially over, Alberta still faces some significant headwinds — including job creation, energy investment, pipeline approval and international trade.

The city of Calgary is facing many of the same issues, but Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he’s particularly worried about the high downtown commercial vacancy rate and the lack of jobs available.

“Although we’re leading the country in economic growth, I’m not sure people are really feeling it in terms of their jobs and in terms of their wages,” Nenshi said.

READ MORE: Downtown Calgary struggles with commercial vacancies while ‘burbs’ boom

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ATB chief economist Todd Hirsch said Alberta is seeing fewer jobs in the energy sector — jobs which traditionally pay more.

But Hirsch also added the oil and gas industry may not be what continues to drive Alberta’s economy.

“Oil is our backbone in this province,” Hirsch said.

“We can’t ignore it, it’s not going away and we don’t want it to go away. We need to nurture it, but I think we need to expect the growth in this province to come from other sectors.”

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Some of the alternate sectors the province is tapping into include agriculture, agrifoods, tourism, transportation and technology, Hirsch said.

The City of Calgary also unveiled a new economic strategy on Wednesday as part of the economic outlook.

Calgary in the New Economy focuses on drivers of economic growth the city has identified as being priorities — talent, innovation, place and a business-friendly environment.

It’s the latest version of the city’s strategy that was originally created in 2008.