Calgary—In the wake of Alberta’s economic downturn, the pace of our population growth is slowing down. This is one of the key findings in ATB Financial’s latest edition of Perch, which takes a timely look at how Alberta’s population has been growing and changing and how it compares to other places in Canada and around the world.
Alberta’s population growth fell from a year-over-year rate of 2.8 per cent in July, 2014, to 1.8 per cent in July, 2015. This was still the highest rate in the country, more than double the rate in the US and six times the rate in the European Union. As of October, 2015, and well into the economic downturn, Alberta’s rate of population growth was still the highest in Canada.
“When our economy slumps, we worry about a return to the bad old days of the 1980s when the highways out of Alberta were jammed with people looking for greener pastures,” said Rob Roach, ATB’s director of insight and author of Perch. “While the net number of people moving to Alberta is down—and may even reach negative territory for a quarter or two in 2016—our total population is likely to continue to grow faster than in many other parts of Canada.”
The new edition of Perch puts the effects of the current downturn into context. “We are used to very high rates of population growth in Alberta, so even though we are still growing, it may feel like we are shrinking,” added Roach. “It’s cold comfort if you have lost your job or are trying to sell your home, but it’s a sign of the underlying resilience of our province that Alberta’s population has not contracted on an annual basis since 1946.”
Other key findings in Perch:
- As of last summer, Alberta’s population was just a shade under 4.2 million, making it the fourth largest province with almost 12 per cent of Canada’s population.
- If Alberta was a country, it would be number 128 on the global population list just behind New Zealand and ahead of Liberia.
- Alberta is expected to reach between 5.6 million and 6.8 million by 2038. This translates into annual average growth of between 1.6 and 2.8 per cent—the highest among the provinces under all scenarios considered by Statistics Canada.
- Net international migration accounts for the largest portion (37 per cent) of residents added to Alberta’s population since 2005.
- Almost seven in 10 Albertans live in one of the province’s two large metro areas (Calgary and Edmonton).
- While Alberta is Canada’s youngest province, our population is aging. In 1971, our median age was about 25, today it is 36, and it will continue to rise in the years ahead. At the same time, the proportion of Albertans 65 years of age and older is also increasing.
“The aging of the population is a significant change that requires a lot of planning and action today if we are going to adapt our labour force, businesses, communities and social programs in ways that will both meet the needs of an older population and enhance our prosperity,” noted Roach. “This and the other population trends shaping our province outlined in Perch are an important reminder that we need to stay ahead of our demography if we are to achieve a better tomorrow.”