Alberta economic growth among Canada’s leaders

Alberta economic growth among Canada’s leaders: 3.7% hike forecast for this year

CALGARY — Alberta is positioned as one of Canada’s provincial leaders in growth, according to the latest RBC Economics Provincial Outlook report released Monday.

The provincial economy is set to grow at a rate of 3.7 per cent in 2011 and 3.9 per cent in 2012, said RBC. Both years Alberta will be second overall in the country behind nation-leading Saskatchewan’s growth rates of 4.3 per cent this year and 4.1 per cent next year.

Continued uncertainty in the global economy and volatility in the financial market forced RBC to downgrade its economic outlook for Canada. It is now predicting 2.4 per cent growth in 2011 and 2.5 per cent growth in 2012 for the country, down from 3.2 per cent this year and 3.1 per cent in 2012 it had forecast in June.

In June, the financial institution predicted economic growth of 4.3 per cent for Alberta this year and 3.8 per cent in 2012.

Increased production at major oilsands projects in Alberta in the past two years has rapidly boosted crude oil output and signs of further acceleration emerged earlier this year, said the report, but wildfires then forced widespread shut-downs in late-May and caused oil production to plummet in the weeks that followed.

“We expect that the negative economic impact from the wildfires will be short-lived, as most facilities were able to resume operations fairly quickly after the fires subsided,” said Craig Wright, senior vice-president and chief economist for RBC. “The economic loss associated with this disaster should be largely recovered in the second half of 2011.”

Solid investment in Alberta’s energy-related sector is the key driver of economic growth at play in the province, added the report. Oil and gas producers are slated to spend more than $24 billion this year, an 18 per cent increase over 2010.

“Continued strength in energy-related sectors will support a slight acceleration in economic growth to 3.9 per cent in 2012, maintaining Alberta’s status as a growth powerhouse,” said Wright. “This has had a positive impact on employment, as more than 77,000 jobs were added to the Alberta economy in the first eight months of this year, which was the strongest gain ever recorded over this period in the province.”

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