Calgary

Alberta facing 6% joblessness in 2015, ATB says

The latest economic forecast by ATB Financial predicts a significant downturn in Alberta's weakening economy.

It's been a "fool's paradise," says ATB chief economist Todd Hirsch

The second-quarter forecast by ATB Financial today predicts a continued downturn in the economy. (Norm Betts/Bloomberg)

Alberta's economy will continue to slide significantly, according to ATB Financial's second-quarter forecast.

The bank's latest economic outlook says the province can expect real GDP growth of just 0.8 per cent this year. The provincial unemployment rate is predicted to be six per cent for the year, while investment in the energy sector continues to be affected by low oil and gas prices. 

But Todd Hirsch, ATB chief economist, says energy prices will likely start rising by the end of the summer.

"We originally thought that by late spring we would start to see some of these energy prices level out, but we haven't really seen a sign of that, so far," said Hirsch. 

"We're still seeing a lot of volatility," in West Texas Intermediate, he added. "Once we see prices level out and stabilize completely, I think we can say we've reached the bottom of the market and then prices will be set to gradually climb." 

Hirsch says Alberta has finally hit a roadblock after driving the country's economy for the past four years. 

"In some ways it's been a fool's paradise. People tend to forget we've come off five years of extraordinarily strong GDP growth," said Hirsch.  "Any other province in the country would love one year of growth that good."

Meanwhile, when it comes to real estate, Hirsch says it's going to feel "a bit bumpy," for the first half of the year. We'll see softer prices and in the number of sales in existing homes. We're already seeing that in Calgary, but not so much in Edmonton." 

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