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Alberta's economic outlook bright, but challenges remain

Last Updated May 22, 2018 at 10:41 am MDT

A pumpjack does its work in the Mountain View County area of Alberta on Saturday, March 25, 2017. (Photo by Chelsey Harms/660 NEWS)

Alberta is moving away from a recession, and back into expansion, but a new ATB Financial outlook says challenges remain.

The report, released Tuesday, says ongoing opposition to Trans Mountain and high household debt levels are creating some uncertainty.

“The job market, the unemployment rate, still around 6.5 per cent and it has felt frustrating and a bit discouraging to a lot of those job seekers. We have not seen yet the really good quality full-time jobs that we lost during the recession,” Chief Economist Todd Hirsch said.

But there are positives.

“We are seeing oil prices the highest they’ve been in quite awhile. Both the West Texas price, but also the Western Canadian price that our producers receive, so that is helping the energy sector, it’s helping cash flow and also helping the provincial government,” he said.

And people are returning to the province.

“Over 2015, 2016, and the first half of ’17, we did see a net outflow of people, from Alberta to other provinces — that returned to balance at the end of last year. And in 2018, we are expecting it to be modestly positive, so, that is good news,” Hirsch said.

He added other sectors of the economy are still performing well including tourism, agriculture and agri-foods, and the forestry sector.

It may not have felt like it for some, but Alberta’s economy was the fastest growing in the country in 2017 at 4.9 per cent, and ATB is forecasting real GDP growth of 2.8 per cent in 2018.