A new report from ATB Financial says although Alberta's economy is improving, unemployment remains a challenge.

Chief economist Todd Hirsch says that after two years of recession in Alberta, GDP growth will be about four per cent in 2017, among the highest in the country.

He says growth is coming from the oil and gas, agriculture, food processing and tourism sectors.

Despite that, Hirsch expects Alberta's unemployment rate to remain at about eight per cent.

However, he expects more improvements next year.

Some key findings from the report include:

  • Retail and housing sector performance have improved.
  • Oil prices have steadied, and have begun to inch higher (currently around $55 US per barrel).
  • Alberta's energy sector will grow this year, particularly in conventional drilling.
  • Tourism, agriculture and agri-food will continue to show steady growth.
  • Net out-migration to other provinces is likely to taper off but continue at a slower rate next year.

"With Alberta experiencing real GDP growth of around four per cent this year, the recession is firmly behind us," Hirsch said in a release.

"Unfortunately, it may not feel that way for many Albertans as we continue to struggle with an unemployment rate of nearly eight per cent."

The province is expected to continue seeing high unemployment next year but the report forecasts GDP growth of 2.7 per cent in 2018 and 2.2 per cent in 2019.