Gerald Tostowaryk

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I remember some years back when I was out hunting with a friend and I heard that lovely sound of a couple of shots coming from his direction. I headed over to find him and when we finally met up, he had the proverbial good news-bad news scenario for me; "I got a moose, but we only have a couple hours of light left" Well off to work we went dressing out this big animal and getting it out of the woods.

In today's world, economic updates seem to always be of interest, and they all seem to be the same - good news mixed with bad; hope mixed with despair. Alberta on the other hand, seems to be mostly all (but not all!) good news these days.

So what is the scoop on Alberta's economy these days? Let me give you a taste of several tidbits of what is going on. The following updates are all recent posts from Todd Hirsch of Alberta Treasury Branch. Todd's daily updates are quite popular and you can follow him on Twitter @ABeconomist. Some of the ad-lib comments are mine.

 

Employment

In the last two years full-time employment is up over 11% while part-time employment is down around 3%. The drop in part-time employment is probably a good thing indicating part-time jobs turning into full-time.

 

Population Growth

Alberta's population grew by a nice 2.5% from 2011 to 2012. Of course it's all those people moving in to the province for work, right? Wrong. Well, two-thirds of them were from in-migration (if that is even a word) but almost 8 out of every 25 were from an excess of births over deaths, natural population growth

 

Retail Sales Increases, but...

Alberta retail sales have been climbing steadily over the last few years. From May of 2011 to May of 2013 monthly retail sales have increased from $5.2B (seasonally adjusted) to about $6.1B. Interestingly, comvenience store sales have been decreasing, down 23% in the last two years. Why? The answer is one of those deceptively simple ones...grocery stores are open longer hours these days, and since they do have better prices, where do we go? To the grocery store of course. Interesting. It may be worth watching to see how convenience stores respond.

 

Construction Spending

Non-residential construction spending has had some ups and downs but overall is keeping a pretty good pace. Since bottoming in 2010, commercial construction spending is up around $1.8B. Industrial spending is crawling ahead also, reaching approximately $400M by April of this year. Institutional/government spending dropped dramatically from a high of approximately $1B in Q2 of 2010 to a current level of also around $400M.

 

Employment Insurance

With our strong economy, the number of EI claimants had dropped dramatically from about 70,000 in May of 2009 to a current level of around 28,000. Not bad. As always, youth are hit the hardest with an unemployment rate of approximately 8%, almost double the national average.

 

Prices and Earnings

So, are we making more in Alberta? Are we spending more? Yes and yes. The good news is that our earnings have risen faster than the rate of inflation since 2006 and we have more disposable income. Before 2006 earnings increases were pretty much neck and neck with inflation. Mind you, prices have been rising at an annual rate of 2.3% in Alberta this year, compared to 1.2% for the rest of Canada. I don't know about you but those inflation rates these days just don't seem right, prices seem to be rising fairly quickly to me. Who knows?

 

So there you have it, mostly good news mixed in with a few tidbits of bad news. I will give you another smattering of Todd's updates in another blog post soon, but feel free to check him out on Twitter @ABeconomist and get your own good news/bad news scenarios directly. Oh yes, the moose. Well the bad news is it started raining shortly after dark, and we were stumbling our way around through the bush until 1:30 am. It's amazing how 40 yards can be an eternity in pitch black. The good news is we finally got him out of the bush safe and sound. Bed never felt so good.

 

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