Alberta economy to lead Canada in 2014 by far, RBC says

A new analysis from Canada's biggest bank says Alberta's economy will continue to substantially outperform the rest of Canada's this year, handily leading all other provinces in terms of growth and job creation.
Quebec's economy is expected to pick up the pace of growth this year, but Alberta still leads the way by far in Canada, Royal Bank says. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

A new analysis from Canada's biggest bank says Alberta's economy will continue to substantially outperform the rest of Canada's, handily leading all other provinces far in terms of growth and job creation.

Royal Bank predicts Alberta's economy will expand by 3.7 per cent this year, much better than Canada as a whole, which is forecast to grow by 2.4 per cent.

No other province is expected to do better than 2.3 per cent, which means Alberta is single-handedly dragging the national average higher. That's "a feat without precedent in history going back to the early 1980s," RBC says.

Five provinces (Nova Scotia, Ontario, New Brunswick, Quebec and B.C.) are expected to increase growth, while three (Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) will see their pace of growth decrease from last year and the remaining two are set to grow at the same pace.

Extremely harsh weather in all regions was a drag on growth to start the year, the bank says. But with winter over, the underlying health of the economy is strong and poised to grow, the bank says.

"Alberta barely missed a beat," the bank says. "Every indicator continues to point to booming conditions in the province."

Overall, Canada's economy will likely grow by 2.4 per cent this year and 2.7 per cent in 2015, boosted by improving domestic conditions, a stronger U.S. market and a weaker loonie (which the bank forecasts to finish the year at 87 cents US) lighting a fire under Canadian exports.

While the total value of GDP is growing, that isn't translating into corresponding growth in the job market, however. 

Most provinces are forecast to see job growth of under one per cent this year, the bank says. The exceptions are Saskatchewan, at 1.4 per cent, and Alberta, again, at 2.9 per cent. Alberta's job growth rate is more than three times the national average of 0.9 per cent.

Perhaps surprisingly, Ontario is expected to have the second-best economy in Canada this year, led by a loonie-driven rebound in the manufacturing sector.

The bank expects Ontario's economy to grow by 2.3 per cent this year, just ahead of government estimates and much better than the 1.3 per cent pace posted in 2013. Indeed, the bank expects Canada's most populous province to grow by even more — 2.8 per cent — in 2015.

Saskatchewan's economy is projected to slow to 1.4 per cent growth after a 4.5 per cent surge in 2013 due to what the bank says is a reversal in the agriculture boom the province enjoyed last year. The suddenly slumping potash market is going to be a drag on the province in 2014, RBC says.

Other projected growth rates include Nova Scotia at 2.2 per cent, Manitoba and 2.1 per cent each, then Quebec at 1.9 per cent, P.E.I. at 1.4 per cent, New Brunswick at one per cent and Newfoundland at 0.6 per cent.

The bank says New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and B.C. are best positioned to take advantage of increasing demand from the U.S.