indicatorThe Twenty-Four

Alberta bound

Population boom continues

By Mark Parsons, ATB Economics 20 December 2023 3 min read

“Oh the prairie lights are burnin' bright

The Chinook wind is a-movin' in

Tomorrow night I'll be Alberta bound…”

   - Gordon Lightfoot, Alberta Bound

Alberta continues to attract residents from the rest of the country, propelling its population growth rate ahead of all other provinces.

According to new data from Statistics Canada, Alberta gained more than 17,000 people from other provinces and territories in the third quarter of this year (July to Sept). The province has registered net interprovincial migration of at least 10,000 for five straight quarters, the longest streak since 1971 (earliest data).

B.C. and Ontario are the main sources. The two provinces accounted for more than two-thirds of Alberta’s net interprovincial migrants in the third quarter and more than 70% over the last four quarters (see chart). That said, Alberta attracted residents from all provinces last quarter, with notable net gains from Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

We’ve previously noted that relative housing affordability appears to be playing a greater role this time around. The higher-than-normal share of migrations from BC and Ontario, where housing is more expensive on average, points us in that direction. In the last two big interprovincial migration waves, the Ontario/BC share was significantly lower (just over 50% between 2011 to 2014 and less than 40% between 2004 to 2008).

In addition to housing, the job market in Alberta has been fairly healthy, with employment growth far outpacing the national average so far this year. While the unemployment rate is still slightly higher than the national average (5.9% vs. 5.8% nationally in November), the gap has closed. Moreover, the job vacancy rate (jobs vacant as share of jobs required) in Alberta has recently edged above the national rate for the first time since early 2016.

Thanks to the influx from other provinces, Alberta’s population continues to grow at a faster clip than all other provinces. In the third quarter alone, it expanded by 1.3%, reaching 4.76 million as of Oct 1, 2023. The quarterly gain of more than 61,000 is the highest on record.

Over the latest one-year period, Alberta’s population grew 4.3%, far exceeding the national increase of 3.2%. PEI ranked second at 4.0%. Alberta has not seen an annual growth rate this high since 1981. In absolute terms, this is the strongest year-over-year change Alberta has ever witnessed - a stunning 195,058 new residents in the last four quarters.

nternational migration remains the main source of population gains. Net international migration was more than 39,000 in the third quarter, the highest quarter on record. Over the last four quarters, the province added more than 123,000 through international migration with non-permanent residents (NPRs)* accounting for the largest component of the gain (+74,920). 

While less of a factor, the province also receives a relatively large boost from natural increases (births less deaths), thanks to its younger population. Natural increases have totaled nearly 16,000 over the last four quarters.

Alberta’s population grew by 1.3% in the third quarter of 2023 (July 1 to Oct 1), and by 4.3% over the last four quarters (Oct 1, 2022 to Oct 1, 2023)

Alberta’s population grew by 1.3% in the third quarter of 2023 (July 1 to Oct 1), and by 4.3% over the last four quarters (Oct 1, 2022 to Oct 1, 2023)

Alberta gained over 11,500 residents, on a net basis,from BC and Ontario in the third quarter of 2023

Alberta gained over 11,500 residents, on a net basis,from BC and Ontario in the third quarter of 2023

*According to Statistics Canada, a non-permanent resident 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). Family members living with work or study permit holders are also included unless these family members are already Canadian citizens, landed immigrants (permanent residents), or non-permanent residents themselves.

Daily trivia

Answer to the previous trivia question: According to Statistics Canada,the prices included in the Consumer Price Index are final prices, inclusive of all excise and other taxes paid by consumers. In particular, prices include the Goods and Services Tax (GST), provincial retail sales taxes, or harmonized sales taxes, as well as any environmental, liquor and tobacco taxes if applicable. This means that the CPI could change as a result of changes in any of these types of taxes.”

Today’s trivia question: It’s the winter solstice tomorrow. How many solstices are there in a year?

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