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Things will get worse before they get better: Business Council of Alberta survey

Alberta CEOs are anticipating that business activity will not get back to where it was before the pandemic for some time

By ATB Economics 7 October 2020 1 min read

A new survey conducted by the Business Council of Alberta “suggests that Alberta CEOs feel we are not out of the woods yet in terms of our economy and employment.”

The Business Expectations Survey includes some of the largest businesses in the province and is modeled after the Bank of Canada’s Business Outlook Survey.

In the field from September 10 to 28, the survey found that 53 per cent of respondents expect their spending on machinery and equipment to be lower over the next 12 months compared to the previous 12 months and points to potentially lower productivity growth over the short-term.

The survey also found that 47 per cent of respondents expect their firm’s employment level to be lower over the next 12 months versus just 26 per cent who expect it to rise. The Business Council notes that, “this would be a concerning finding at the best of times, but it is especially troubling given that, as of August, there were still 164,000 fewer Albertans with a job than there were in February before the shutdown began.”

On top of lower capital investment and employment levels, Alberta CEOs are anticipating that business activity will not get back to where it was before the pandemic for some time. About six in ten said their new orders, advance bookings, sales inquiries, and other indicators of future business activity have deteriorated compared to a year ago.

On a somewhat brighter note, even though sales growth slowed over the past 12 months for 65 per cent of businesses in the survey, 88 per cent feel things will pick up or at least stay the same over the next 12 months. Admittedly, this sentiment is relative to the low bar set during the pandemic, but it does suggest that CEOs are not expecting another nosedive like we saw in the spring.

The survey found that 47 per cent of respondents expect their firm’s employment level to be lower over the next 12 months versus just 26 per cent who expect it to rise

Almost half of respondents expect their firm’s employment level to be lower over the next 12 months


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