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Alberta population booms

Alberta's population has grown by 184,400 since July 2022

By Mark Parsons, ATB Economics 27 September 2023 3 min read

Alberta led all provinces in population growth this year. The influx of new residents is fueling consumer spending and housing demand, while adding to the province’s labour supply.

As of July 1,2023, an estimated 4.7 million people called Alberta home according to  annual population estimates released by Statistics Canada this morning. That is 4.1% higher than the same time last year—or an additional 184,400 people.

In the demography world, the midpoint of the year is the reference point for the calendar year. With the 2023 data in hand, we can compare 2023 to previous years going all the way back to 1926.*

  • In percentage terms, the last time population growth was this high Stars on 45 and John Lennon were topping the charts. For music buffs, that’s 1981, when the population grew 4.6%. 
  • In people terms, however, no other year comes close. This year’s increase in the total population outmatches the previous record in 2013 by 77,800.

What accounts for the spike? Population growth has come from all angles this year, but it is mostly due to a spike in international migration.  An influx of other Canadians coming to Alberta also added significantly to the gains, propelling Alberta’s growth ahead of other provinces. 

  • Natural increase (births minus deaths) provides a steady and fairly predictable increase in the population in Alberta, thanks to the relatively high proportion of young families living here. In 2023, natural increase contributed 15,592 new people to the province, or 8% of the total increase.
  • Net Interprovincial migration in most years adds to Alberta’s population, especially during periods of rapid growth. In 2016-2021, there were net outflows from the province following the oil price crash and recession. But since late 2021, that trend has rapidly reversed. Stronger job growth and relatively affordable housing has contributed to the upswing. In 2023, net interprovincial migration was responsible for adding 56,245 people to the province, or 31% of the total increase. Nearly three-quarters (73.5%) of the gain came from net inflows from Ontario and BC. 
  • Net International migration is the biggest driverIncreased federal immigration targets, along with a jump in non-permanent residents**, has pushed the contribution of international immigration to record levels. In 2023, international migration added 112,562 new people to the province, or 61% of the total increase.

Digging into the latest quarter, Alberta’s population grew by 1.1%, or 50,061 people.  Net interprovincial flows remained strong at 13,926 and the main sources continued to be BC and Ontario. Natural increases accounted for 4,764 of the increase, with international migration the remainder.

This year, Alberta’s population outpaced the national average by 1.1 percentage points. That’s not to take away from the sizable increase in the national population (+3.0%), which is the fastest since 1957, and stronger than any of the G7 countries.

Statistics Canada has, for the first time, incorporated 2021 census population counts adjusted for net undercoverage. As part of their adjustments, the agency revised down its estimate of previous quarters. This results in a lower estimate of the Alberta population as of April 1, 2023 (now 4,645,229 vs. 4,703,772 previously). It also lowers the previously reported annual growth between April 1, 2022 and April 1, 2023 from 4.5% (200,914 people) to 3.7% (164,273).

The influx of people in Alberta has contributed to the recent surge in housing demand and resilient consumer spending. It’s also added to the labour force, which is growing at its fastest annual pace since 2007, leaving aside the COVID recovery.

*Statistics Canada updated population series is 1951 to 2023 from Table 17-10-0009-01.  For the years 1926 to 1950, we use archived data from Table 36-10-0280-01.

**A non-permanent resident (NPR) refers to a person from another country with a usual place of residence in Canada and who has a work or study permit or who has claimed refugee status (asylum claimant). NPRs include temporary foreign workers, international students, and refugee claimants.

Answer to the previous trivia question: At 15% of the total, the professional, scientific and technical services sector has the largest number of active businesses in Alberta (as of Q2 2023). Construction is in second spot at 13%.

Today’s trivia question: Which province has the larger population: Nova Scotia or New BrunswicK?

Alberta's population increased by 4.1% between July 2022 and July 2023

Alberta's population increased by 4.1% between July 2022 and July 2023

Net international migration was the largest source of population growth in Alberta in the second quarter of 2023

Net international migration was the largest source of population growth in Alberta in the second quarter of 2023

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