The Alberta economy is poised to be stronger this year, as Alberta’s oilpatch finds itself back on top after a prolonged slump.
The provincial economy grew 0.7 per cent in the three months to Sept. 30, compared to 0.6 per cent a year earlier, according to the latest figures from Statistics Canada.
The jobless rate fell to 8.3 per cent, from 9.1 per cent at the end of last year.
In the first quarter of 2018, Alberta was the only province to report positive employment data.
“I think what we are seeing now is a new wave of economic activity in Alberta,” said Derek Nesselberg, an economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
“It is a good sign that the economy is rebounding.”
The province’s economy grew at a rate of 0.3 percentage points higher than the previous three-month average.
But growth is projected to be weaker in 2019 as the downturn worsens.
“This is the first time in a long time that we have seen the economy actually bounce back in the same direction as it did in 2018,” said Nesselburg.
Alberta’s unemployment rate has been hovering around 5.3 percent for years.
“The economic recovery in Alberta has been pretty much the same since the early 2000s, when the recession hit,” said Peter T. Beaudry, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets.
“And we think it’s going to be very tough to see Alberta recover from this.”
While oil prices have been in free fall, Alberta has seen a resurgence in the manufacturing sector.
A new report from the Conference Board of Canada said the number of manufacturing jobs in Alberta rose by 13,000 between August and September.
“If you have the right combination of good fundamentals, and the right policy framework, you can make the best economic case in the world for the oilpatch,” said Paul Reimer, an economics professor at the University of Calgary.
“But the fundamentals are weak, the fundamentals of the economy are bad, and we have to address those,” said Reimer.
Oil-producing provinces have struggled to attract new investment, and Alberta has struggled with high unemployment.
The economy was also hit hard by a prolonged downturn in 2016-17, which resulted in the province losing more than $1.2 billion in tax revenue.
“We had a $1 billion shortfall in provincial revenues and it was very bad news for the province,” said Beaudy.
“We were also very, very concerned about the province’s debt.
So the outlook for the Alberta economy has been very disappointing.”
The new data is a boost to Alberta’s confidence.
It comes as the province has struggled to recover from the worst recession in its history.
The province’s unemployment was almost double the national average at 9.3%.