New numbers show Alberta’s economy continues to dig itself out of the deep hole caused by crashing oil prices, with Premier Rachel Notley’s government saving more — and spending more. Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci speaks about the Government of Alberta’s 2016-17 year-end financial results, in Edmonton on Thursday, June 29, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta economy has recovered two-thirds of recession losses: government

EDMONTON — The Alberta government says the provincial economy has recovered about two-thirds of its losses from the last recession.

It says the economy grew by 4.9 per cent last year and is expected to add 2.7 per cent this year.

The government’s 2017-18 annual report says Alberta ended the year with an $8-billion deficit.

That’s $2.5 billion lower than what was expected in last year’s budget.

The better-than-expected results were partly due to higher bitumen royalties and investment income.

The NDP government says it’s on track to return to balanced books in 2023-24.

Net debt was at $19.3 billion as of March 31 — about $1 billion lower than forecast in the budget.

“Our government has been clear — we are going to have the backs of Albertans. That’s why we made sure to invest in the services families need while keeping a steady hand guiding the province out of this recession,” Finance Minister Joe Ceci said in a release.

“We know that we still have work to do, but we will not let up until all Albertans feel the economic recovery. We are growing an economy that is built to last.”

A rebound in the energy sector, driven by improved oil prices, spearheaded the recovery.

Conventional oil and gas drilling was up by 65 per cent. The manufacturing and forestry sectors also saw stronger performance.

Non-renewable resource revenue was $5 billion — up $1.9 billion from the previous year and $1.2 billion higher than the budget estimate.

Alberta’s population grew by nearly 58,000 residents, including more than 26,000 migrants.

The province says 90,000 jobs were added in 2017. The unemployment rate was seven per cent at the end of the year, down from a recessionary peak of nine per cent in November 2016.

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