indicatorThe Twenty-Four

Population special

People continue to flock to Alberta

By Mark Parsons, ATB Economics 19 June 2024 3 min read

Hot off the demographic data presses, we are sending a second Twenty-Four today summarizing today’s release of the population estimates from Statistics Canada.

Population growth continues to run hot. Alberta’s population stood at 4.85 million as of April 1, 2024, up 49,140 in the first quarter for an increase of 1.0%.

Interprovincial inflows show few signs of slowing, as people continue to move to Alberta from the rest of Canada. Alberta gained 12,480 people (on a net basis) from other provinces and territories in the first quarter of 2024. This was the 11th quarter in a row in which Alberta’s population grew from interprovincial migration, a turnaround from quarterly losses that marked the period between mid-2015 and mid-2021.

Where are people coming from? Primarily B.C. and Ontario, a similar story to previous quarters. Alberta gained 8,980 from those two provinces last quarter.

Over the latest one-year period (April 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024), 53,400 people were added from other provinces.

Alberta's population growth has been outpacing the national average

Alberta's population growth has been outpacing the national average

We have explored in detail why people are coming to Alberta from other parts of Canada in our report “Chasing Affordability: The return of interprovincial migration to Alberta.” The punchline is that it’s not the usual migration cycle. People are coming for jobs, but also relatively affordable housing, and it’s not the same energy investment cycle driving those job opportunities. We also believe that remote work is playing a key role, with growing numbers working for an employer out of province.

Our thought was that interprovincial migration would moderate (but stay positive) as the housing price gap narrows. That hasn’t happened yet. As it turns out, we just released our quarterly economic outlook yesterday (prior to the release of today’s numbers) and it looks like we may have underestimated population growth a touch. With today’s population report, it’s likely that 2024 growth for the census year (July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024) will come in closer to 4% (or even slightly higher) compared to the 3.5% we projected in our report.

Why the focus on interprovincial migration? It is what’s driving a wedge between Alberta and national population growth. Alberta’s year-over-year (y/y) population growth was 4.4% in the first quarter (or 204,700 people) compared to 3.2% nationally ‒ with the difference almost entirely due to interprovincial flows. Interprovincial migration is contributing to the resale and new housing market in Alberta running much hotter than in the rest of the country as we explored today.

On the international front, inflows remain strong. Alberta added 32,893 people through net  international migration in the first quarter, driven by 19,165 net non-permanent residents* (NPRs). While immigration will remain robust, NPRs are forecast to ease from recent highs as the backlog has been largely addressed and, at the same time, the federal government is placing limits on international students and temporary foreign workers. However, with a much lower proportion of international students and temporary foreign workers, Alberta is anticipated to be less impacted by these changes than other provinces.

The implications of this rapid population growth are many, as we discussed in our Chasing affordability report. It’s leading to rapid labour force entry, filling job vacancies, slowing (but not reversing) population aging, adding to infrastructure demands, putting upward pressure on the housing market and driving consumer spending. It’s one of the reasons Alberta’s economy is expected to grow at a faster rate than the rest of the country in 2024.

*A non‑permanent resident is a person from another country with a usual place of residence in Canada who has a work or study permit or who has claimed refugee status. Family members living with work or study permit holders are also included, unless these family members are already Canadian citizens or landed immigrants or permanent residents.

Alberta gained population from natural increase, interprovincial migration and international migration in the first quarter of 2024

Alberta gained population from natural increase, interprovincial migration and international migration in the first quarter of 2024

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