Alberta Q3 economic growth exceeds expectations, deficit drops

Nearly 90,000 full-time jobs created in Alberta over last year

Alberta’s economy is leading the country with growth in nearly all sectors. In the third-quarter fiscal update, GDP growth is revised up to 4.5 per cent and the deficit dropped by $1.4 billion, according to an Alberta Government press release.

Economic growth continues to exceed expectations with 2017 GDP growth forecasts increasing for the third time and 2018 growth projected to be stronger.

Growing exports, a strong rebound in consumer spending and confidence, and improvement in oil prices show improvement in the recovery of Alberta’s economy.

Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci.

More Albertans are working—nearly 90,000 full-time jobs were added over the last year, driven largely by private-sector growth. The unemployment rate forecast for 2018 has been revised lower to 6.8 per cent, from 7.6 per cent at Budget 2017.

“Alberta’s economic growth and broad-based recovery show that we made the right choice in the face of the worst recession in a generation. Our choice to invest in Albertans, build infrastructure and carefully find savings—without firing thousands of teachers and nurses—is paying off,” said Joe Ceci, President of Treasury Board & Minister of Finance.

As a result of more Albertans working, housing activity and consumer spending and confidence are up.

The manufacturing sector bounced back in part because of the resumption of activity at a beef-packing plant in Balzac and the opening of the Joffre polyethylene plant expansion. Conventional oil and gas investments far exceeded expectations.

Nearly 90,000 full-time jobs were created over the last year and Alberta’s GDP growth led the country at 4.5 per cent in 2017.

Deficit down at third quarter

The deficit dropped sharply and is now forecast to be $9.1 billion, down $1.4 billion from budget.

The drop in the deficit can be attributed to continued efforts to constrain costs and improved revenues, including resource revenue and investment income, according to the Alberta Government.

The West Texas Intermediate (WTI) forecast price has been revised to US$54/bbl, and the light-heavy differential is now forecast at US$14.50/bbl for 2017-18. With the end of 2017-18 fiscal year fast approaching, the remaining $250-million risk adjustment has been removed.

Cost containment

The Alberta Government claims it has taken significant steps to carefully find savings while continuing to support the public services. According to the government these measures include:

  • Negotiating practical agreements, with no raises in return for job stability, with public sector unions, such as the Alberta Teachers’ Association and United Nurses of Alberta.
  • Freezing salaries until Sept. 2019 for all non-union staff and management across the public sector. Since it was imposed in April 2016, the freeze has saved $29 million a year in the Alberta Public Service alone.
  • Ongoing hiring restraint in the Alberta Public Service, which has saved $204 million since the beginning of 2015.
  • Reducing health-care costs by $100 million over three years by lowering generic drug prices plus $28 million from the operational best practices review in 2017-18.
  • Cutting the salaries and eliminating bonuses for the highest-paid executives of Alberta’s agencies, boards and commissions, saving nearly $16 million annually.
  • Reviewing public agencies, boards and commissions, resulting in a number of amalgamations and dissolutions, saving $33 million over three years.
  • Consolidating and transforming government corporate services, such as communications and IT, finance and HR, saving $15 million to $20 million annually once fully implemented, while achieving better results.
  • Limiting departmental discretionary spending is expected to see a 10 per cent reduction for 2017-18 from the previous year—a savings of approximately $8 million.

2017-18 Third quarter forecast ($ millions)

Full-year forecast

Budget 2017

Q3 forecast

Change from Budget

Income taxes




Non-renewable resource revenue




Other revenue




Total revenue




Operating expense (excluding CLP, net of in-year savings)




Climate Leadership Plan operating expense




Disaster/emergency assistance expense




Other expense




Total expense




Risk adjustment







Energy and economic assumptions

Budget 2017

Q3 forecast

Change from Budget

WTI (US$/bbl) *




Exchange rate (US¢/Cdn$)*




Real GDP growth (%)**




*2017-18 fiscal year     **2017 calendar year


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