indicatorThe Twenty-Four

The Seven, June 21, 2024

A new outlook and a new look…

By ATB Financial 21 June 2024 8 min read

In this week’s The Seven…

  • Alberta’s economic outlook - Finding its stride
  • Indigenous labour market trends in Alberta
  • Fly on the wall - Bank of Canada deliberations
  • High five - Alberta population closing in on 5 million
  • Another gear - home construction in Alberta revs up 
  • Retail turnaround? April gain, cautious trend
  • Interesting Fact: Indigenous population of Alberta
  • Charts of the Week: Natural declines - deaths exceed births in 6 provinces

With bated breath, you waited. And then it arrived. Our new Alberta Economic Outlook was released this week with a nod to a 1980s song you may have forgotten…until you play it (Matthew Wilder’s “Break My Stride”).

We’re trying on a new look. It’s called the Twenty-Four-Seven, bringing you the latest insights throughout the week. The Wrap is now called The Seven. The daily Owl is now called the Twenty-Four. Bringing you around-the-clock insights!

One last (but very important) thing…Go Oilers!

Finding its stride: Alberta’s economic outlook

Our latest quarterly outlook is 14 pages and makes for great summertime reading (according to the authors).

But if you only have 2 minutes, we have a short LinkedIn video: Alberta’s Economic Outlook in 2 Minutes.

The main theme is that the provincial economy faced a number of hurdles in 2023—including a long period of overheated inflation, the most aggressive interest rate hiking cycle since the early 1990s, drought and a slowdown in the energy sector—but looks to “find its stride” over the second half of this year and into 2025.

The economy will be helped along by interest rate cuts, increased market access for oil and natural gas, population growth, home construction, and growth across a range of emerging sectors.

While things are looking up, households and businesses will continue to feel the drag from past rate hikes and higher costs. It will take some time, but confidence will gradually be restored as the Bank of Canada (cautiously) lowers its policy rate further.



Indigenous labour market trends in Alberta

National Indigenous Peoples Day is a time to specifically recognize the contributions of Indigenous Peoples to Canadian society. Today, we honour and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and resilience of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples across Canada. Through celebration, acknowledgment, and learning, we continue to move forward, creating equity and reciprocity in our communities and beyond.

To learn more about ATB’s Reconciliation Responsibility, please visit:

The following section highlights recent labour market trends specific to the off-reserve Indigenous population in Alberta using the results of Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey.*

  • The off-reserve Indigenous population has grown at a rapid pace, rising to 5.5% of Alberta’s total working age population (i.e., 15 years and older) in 2023 from 4.0% in 2006 (which is as far back as the current data series goes).
  • The Indigenous population’s share of total provincial employment has also increased over this period, going from 3.7% in 2006 to 5.4% in 2023.
  • At 14.1%, the Wood Buffalo – Cold Lake region had the largest proportion Indigenous workers.
  • After contracting by 9.7% in 2020 during the first year of the pandemic, annual Indigenous employment grew by 17.9% in 2021 and another 14.6% in 2022.
  • Despite a pullback of 1.4% last year, Indigenous employment was 20.4% higher than its pre-pandemic level (2019) versus a more modest increase of 5.9% for non-Indigenous workers.
  • For the first time since the data series began, the participation rate** of the Indigenous population in Alberta rose above the non-Indigenous rate in 2022 and was 1.7 points higher in 2023 (71.1% versus 69.4%).  
  • There is, however, a gap between the unemployment rates of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous population. In 2023, the Indigenous unemployment rate rose to 10.5% compared to 5.7% for the non-Indigenous population - a gap of 4.8 percentage points.
  • So far in 2024, the Indigenous unemployment rate has averaged 10.5% (three-month moving average) compared to 6.7% for the non-indigenous population.. 

*Includes persons who reported having an Indigenous identity, that is, First Nations (North American Indian), Métis or Inuk (Inuit), or those who reported more than one identity. Excluded from the survey’s coverage are persons living on First Nation reserves and other Métis settlements.

**The participation rate is the percentage of the working age population that is either working or actively looking for work. The unemployment rate is the percentage of the labour force (those working or actively looking for work) that is unemployed.



Fly on the wall: The Bank of Canada deliberations

Amid the speculation about what’s next for interest rates, members of the Bank‘s Governing Council were asking themselves the same question: should we cut?

A summary of their deliberations leading to the June 5 decision to shave 25 basis points off the policy rate was published on Wednesday. The Council considered the merits of waiting for additional inflation data, but decided that they had enough evidence on hand that core inflation was going in the right direction to take their finger off pause in June.

Our takeaway? The Bank is not kidding when it says it is taking a data-dependent approach. It’s all about its mandate: hitting the 2% inflation target. If inflation continues to cooperate, it will cut. If not, it will wait. It will watch everything in between —wages, financial markets, economic output and labour—but with a razor focus on those inflation numbers.

Population boom continues

Alberta once again led all provinces in both quarterly and annual population growth in the first quarter of 2024. The differentiator is interprovincial migration, as the province continues to draw residents from across the country.

How else can we make the point that the population is booming?

How about this: Just two years ago, Alberta’s population sat at 4.48 Million (April 1, 2022).  Fast forward to April 1, 2024 and that number was 4.85 Million - an increase of 369,000! In the latest one-year period alone, the increase was more than 204,000 (that’s roughly two Red Deers).

We project that the population will hit 5 million by the end of calendar 2025.

We’d give a historic precedent, but we don’t have one. The largest increase over a 12-month period prior to the latest boom was 2013, when there was a 110,700 year-over-year increase in the third quarter.  In percentage terms, you need to go back to 1981 to see faster growth rates.

Our forecast is that population growth will remain solid, but a moderation lies ahead.  This will be primarily driven by pullback in the non-permanent resident population amid new federal measures and a slowdown in (but still positive) net interprovincial migration.



More building as housing market tightens

Not surprisingly, given the population explosion, Alberta’s housing market remained tight in May. Months supply of inventory was only 2.4 versus 4.4 nationally, and lowest of all provinces. Benchmark home prices continued their ascent, up 9.6% year over year in May.

Alberta’s housing market has heated up relative to the rest of Canada, and it coincides with people moving here from other provinces. We find a strong relationship between net interprovincial migration and the Canada-Alberta gap in inventory levels (measured by months supply). See the chart below. Similarly, home prices have outpaced the national average during this latest wave of interprovincial migration, after lagging in the years prior.



Clearly more homes are needed. On that score, it’s reassuring that housing starts have kicked into a higher gear. Alberta has been running at a pace of 40,000+ (annualized) starts since August 2023 and clocked in at over 48,000 in May. Residential building permits have also been very strong to start the year.

Retail turnaround?  Sales jump in April, but trend points to cautious consumers

Alberta retail sales, released this morning, had a strong showing in April, rising 3.1%.   That’s a big monthly increase, the largest since January 2023.

But some context is needed. Retail sales are still below January 2023 peaks and are down 0.7% year-to-date. The April gain was mostly due to motor vehicle sales revving into a higher gear. These purchases are notoriously volatile.

Overall, the trend supports our latest forecast for modest growth in real consumer spending in 2024, weighed down by the lingering impacts of previous rate hikes. We see the consumer remaining cautious, with optimism increasing as more rate cuts kick in. All that said, the recent uptick, if sustained, could provide some upside to our forecast.

Interesting Fact…Indigenous population of Alberta

Alberta has been experiencing a population boom of late. While the data for Alberta’s Indigenous identity population is not as up-to-date as it is for the total population, the growth between the 2016 Census and the 2021 Census shows that it is also growing at a rapid pace. Between 2016 and 2021, the Indigenous identity population in Alberta grew by 10% compared to 4.7% for the non-Indigenous population (see the table below).



Charts of the Week:  Natural increase concentrated in four provinces and the territories

Canada’s population relies on two sources of growth: 1) natural increase (births less deaths) and 2) international migration. The latter is, by far, the main source with natural increase accounting for just a 2.6% share of the growth between April 1, 2023 and March 31, 2024 (the most recent period available). Put another way, Canada’s population grew by 1.27 million over this period, and only 32,900 came from natural increase.

Population gains through natural increase are trending down due to an aging population and declining total fertility rates, which hit an all-time low in 2022. Natural increase peaked in 1959, with the downward trend accelerating after 2009.

What’s more, the four Atlantic provinces, Quebec and B.C. experienced natural decrease.

A better way to compare the role of natural increase is in percentage terms. That is, what percentage of each region’s population growth came from natural increase? In that case, the territories are the highest (Nunavut ranks first at 1.2%). Among provinces, Manitoba and Alberta are the highest at just under 0.4%, while Newfoundland is lowest at -0.5%.

Answer to the previous trivia question: According to Statistics Canada, Winnipeg has the largest Indigenous population in Canada at over 100,000 in 2021. Edmonton is second at about 88,000.

Today’s trivia question: When did the Edmonton Oilers join the NHL?





Answer to the previous trivia question: The U.S. Federal Reserve’s “dual mandate” of promoting maximum employment and stable prices was adopted in 1977.

Today’s trivia question: When was the last time the benchmark interest rate in the U.S. was higher than Canada’s benchmark rate?

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