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Alberta's slowly recovering economy a challenge for many, ATB report says

A report into Alberta's economic growth concludes it’s still a tough market for people looking for full-time work.

But things are looking up as employment expected to improve in coming years

ATB Financial says Alberta's economy is still picking up steam, but it's gradual, and full-time jobs have yet to surpass the peak reached in January 2015. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

A report into Alberta's economic growth concludes it's still a tough market for people looking for full-time work.

ATB Financial says the economy is gradually improving, with growth in agriculture, tourism and the tech sector, coupled with rising demand for oil that's keeping the price above $60 a barrel for West Texas Intermediate.

The price has stabilized, the report said, in part due to unrest in Venezuela and U.S. sanctions against Iran.

But ATB chief economist Todd Hirsch says the rate of improvement in employment has been slow and the quality of new jobs somewhat dubious. 

The rate of full-time jobs has yet to surpass the peak reached in January 2015, according to ATB's Alberta Economic Outlook for August 2018.

"There are still many people who are struggling, particularly those who are without work," wrote Hirsch in a press release.

ATB has lowered its growth forecast by a tenth of a percentage point and is predicting real GDP growth of 2.6 per cent this year, and 2.2 per cent in 2019.

Unemployment to improve gradually

The average annual unemployment rate is expected to decline gradually, as well, from 6.4 per cent in this year to 6.1 in 2019.

Much of the employment growth continues to be in agriculture, tourism, tech and transportation, the report said. But it hasn't been rapid enough to bring the unemployment rate back to pre-recession levels.

New jobs also tend to be part-time, and they raise "questions about the quality and compensation" offered, the report said.

Hirsch also says global trade relations are deteriorating and that poses a risk to Canada and Alberta.

"Not only is NAFTA in danger, but U.S. trade relations with China, Mexico, the EU and Turkey have worsened significantly," he said.

"At this time, there is little clarity as to how bad conditions will get. If trade tensions worsen, a global slowdown is almost inevitable."

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