Feels like economic spring

If you’ve been paying attention to the employment ads in the newspaper over the past few weeks, you’ve probably noticed an increase in job opportunities for workers in Alberta’s energy sector. It dawns like the slow realization that spring is just around the corner: it looks like they’re starting to drill again.

If you’ve been paying attention to the employment ads in the newspaper over the past few weeks, you’ve probably noticed an increase in job opportunities for workers in Alberta’s energy sector. It dawns like the slow realization that spring is just around the corner: it looks like they’re starting to drill again.

That, if anything, signals the turnaround in the economy that people in this region can feel and understand. It’s surely not a boom (yet), but there seem to be jobs again and, like a spring thaw, it raises a sense of optimism.

It’s been a long winter, hasn’t it? Not least for our provincial and federal governments. But people who read the signs are beginning to think like it’s spring.

Parliament is back from an overlong winter hibernation. The throne speech and budget are expected to contain the last storm of stimulus spending before getting ready to tighten up, to keep inflation from expanding our recovery too quickly.

So how well did we winter? Better than most, by all accounts.

The recession shrank the Canadian economy by 3.3 per cent, measured from the high point at the end of 2007, to the bottom of the trough in the middle of last year. By comparison, the U.S. economy shrank 3.7 per cent — which is a lot, because the U.S. economy is the world’s largest. Through Europe, the drop was 4.4 per cent.

Compared to the other top industrial nations, Canada had more capacity to spend its way out of the recession — and we did. We subsidized the auto industry, home renovations and road building to the tune of four per cent of GDP (figures didn’t show if that was four per cent of peak GDP, bottom GDP or current GDP — you’d think that might make a difference).

It may have been all that stimulus spending, it may have been our superior banking and financial system or it may have been the fact that our economy is more resource-based than other nations, but we came through the recession with lower unemployment than either the U.S. or Europe.

And even though our federal deficit is at a record $56 billion for the current year, it stands as 5.2 per cent of GDP, which is much lower than the U.S. and most of Europe. We’re on a deficit par with Germany, apparently, as a percentage of the size of our economy.

All of these indicators show that Canada weathered a bad winter in decent shape. To use a farming analogy, Canada is the small cow in the herd that looks to do better than the others when the grass starts growing again.

Which brings us back to the newspaper ads. Some analysts are predicting another labour squeeze in Alberta to announce itself this year. Only this time around, our neighbour Saskatchewan will be riding an energy surge of its own and looking for skilled labour.

Plenty of reason for optimism, if you’re connected to the energy biz.

Crude oil prices are currently flickering around the $78-a-barrel mark, but some analysts are predicting another climb. Oilsands development projects that were shelved in the recession are being dusted, polished and put back on the table. If energy prices do rise, interest rates remain low and Canada looks like a nice secure place to invest, that’s surely enough to make the sun shine again.

It could be the recent warm weather. Or maybe it’s just a post-Olympic glow. But don’t you think it feels like spring?

Let’s see what the government signals, now that it’s getting back to work.

Greg Neiman is an Advocate editor.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nearly five per cent of Alberta businesses did not survive the first 10 months of the pandemic. (Black Press File photo).
Nearly 5% of Alberta businesses closed during 2020 pandemic

Will more closures happen before it’s over?

Red Deer Rebels forward Arshdeep Bains eyes a loose puck in front of the Medicine Hat Tigers net Saturday night in WHL action at the Centrium. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels fall short in 12th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 (Saturday) Tigers 3 Rebels 2 (Monday) The Red… Continue reading

Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and vacation bookings are being increased in B.C. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. announces signage along Alberta border to discourage non-essential travel

B.C. extends COVID-19 indoor dining, group fitness ban until May 25

Red Deer property owners will receive their 2019 property assessment notices in the next few days.  (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer awaiting more details on how federal budget impacts city

The City of Red Deer is awaiting more information on how much… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Letters
Letter: Restrictions have nothing to do with religion

Many have framed the closure of GraceLife Church near Edmonton by Alberta… Continue reading

LtE bug
Letter: Thanking volunteers in Red Deer

National Volunteer Week is April 18 to 24. At the Canadian Cancer… Continue reading

Letter to the editor
Letter: Good on MLAs for speaking out

This is a letter in regard to MLAs not standing united behind… Continue reading

Treena Mielke
Family: Happiness can be found in many ways

I’ve heard it said that necessity is the mother of invention. I… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators' Connor Brown, right, scores on Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom during second-period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Alta., Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Connor Brown scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 4-2 win over Calgary Flames

Connor Brown scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 4-2 win over Calgary Flames

Canada head coach Bev Priestman reacts during the women's international friendly soccer match between England and Canada at Bet365 stadium in Stoke on Trent, England, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Priestman says her goal is to help Canada move up the Olympic podium after back-to-back bronze medals at the 2012 and 2016 Games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rui Vieira
Olympic soccer draw will allow Canadians to start planning on and off the pitch

Olympic soccer draw will allow Canadians to start planning on and off the pitch

Federal government’s extension of CEWS in budget is some good news for CFL franchises

Federal government’s extension of CEWS in budget is some good news for CFL franchises

Canada's Brendan Bottcher dropped a 6-3 decision to Scotland's Bruce Mouat in the men's final of the Humpty's Champions Cup. Bottcher makes a shot against Scotland at the Men's World Curling Championships in Calgary, Alta., Friday, April 9, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Mixed results for Canadian teams at Champions Cup as Homan wins, Bottcher loses

Mixed results for Canadian teams at Champions Cup as Homan wins, Bottcher loses

Most Read