Alberta's economy is heating up: But do you feel left out in the cold?

"We're seeing strength in almost every area of the economy — with a few exceptions," says a Calgary economist.

'We're seeing strength in almost every area of the economy — with a few exceptions'

A pedestrian strolls through Calgary, with its downtown skyline in the background, on a frosty day. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Economists may disagree on exactly how fast Alberta's economy is growing but there's no disagreement that it has returned to growth, after two years of recession.

In fact, numerous analysts now say our province will lead the nation in real GDP growth in 2017; the only question is how much the economy will actually expand by year's end.

ATB Financial expects 3.9 per cent growth while the Conference Board of Canada projects a blistering 6.7 per cent pace.

Regardless of the final amount, University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe says one thing is certain: "The recovery has now been underway for about a year and 2017 is going to have some pretty strong growth."

"We're seeing strength in almost every area of the economy," he added. "With a few exceptions."

And there's the rub, for many Albertans.

'In rural Alberta, I don't see it'

Numerous callers to CBC Radio's alberta@noon on Thursday said they're not feeling the upturn in their own lives.

"I'm a sales rep and I travel all over Alberta and no, not seeing it," said Dean Cronk.

"The people that I talk to, they're still out of work," he added. "They're still not hiring."

Norbert Luken offered a similar assessment, saying the growth in retail spending that Statistics Canada is reporting isn't apparent in his neck of the woods.

"In rural Alberta, I don't see it," Luken said.

"I don't see that spending. What a lot of people have done is just hung on for years. Like, they're running their trucks until they're ragged … and now people are up against that wall and saying I have to replace that infrastructure I need."

Strathmore resident Ron Singh said some businesses seem to be doing OK but others are struggling.

"It's big corporations — they're gaining. Small businesses are dying," he said.

"There are signs for lease everywhere and nobody's leasing the commercial buildings in Strathmore."

Jobs without people

Others, like Marc Ostrensky, said they've seen plenty of new job opportunities in the oilfield services sector as production levels ramp up — but there's not always qualified workers available to take them.

"I work for a service company and there have been times where I've had to sit at home and pass up jobs because I just don't have enough people on a crew to go and complete a job," he said.

Some days, Ostrensky said, he'd almost be willing to take "anybody that could walk through the door."

Others who weighed in to the discussion on social media said they've seen signs of economic recovery in their own lives.

'We have not seen it as bad as this'

When it comes to people struggling with extreme poverty, however, Ellie Anderson believes things are getting worse.

She helps run a food program among three churches in Edmonton and has observed more people coming in with more severe struggles.

"I've been a part of the program now for about six years and we have not seen it as bad as this," she said.

"It's different people all the time now and the people are in rougher shape all the time and in need of more than food. They're in need of clothes and they're in need of so many other items, as well."

Tombe noted the economic data showing Alberta's recovery is an aggregate of the province's entire economic activity but there is plenty of variation from place to place — and person to person.

"Underneath these economy-wide, provincewide numbers, there are lots of different experiences and perspectives out there," he said.

"So while some might be experiencing a recovery, others might not be."


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