Alberta manufacturing drops 15%, battered by economic downturn

Where the price of a barrel of oil goes, so goes manufacturing in Alberta. Sales are down 15 per cent in the first quarter of 2016, compared to the same time last year.

Manufacturing sales in 2016 are down 15% compared to the same period last year

Craig Goddard runs Corma Industries with his wife Claire. They've had to lay off four of their six machinists. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

Where the price of a barrel of oil goes, so goes manufacturing in Alberta. 

Calgary-based Corma Industries, run by Claire and Craig Goddard, produces steel parts and has seen its business erode during the downturn. 

"You know it hasn't been easy. Our numbers are down. We're probably about 40- to 50-per cent down from our previous years," said Claire Goddard. 

She's had to lay off four of her six machinists and move to more automated machinery. He's also had to find new customers — outside oil and gas — for his products. 

"It's a waiting game … It's who can hang on the longest before something changes in the economy or some work starts coming down," said Craig Goddard. 

'Risk of additional shut downs'

Mike Holden, the chief economist with Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said there are more tough times to come as contracts that were signed in better times come to an end. 

"I think there is a risk of additional shutdowns coming," he said. "You know, all that can change pretty quickly if oil prices recover heavily."

Holden said manufacturing sales in the first quarter of 2016 are 15.5 per cent lower than the same time last year. 

With so much uncertainty, Craig Goddard said he'd like to see more support from government to help businesses such as his redefine, to find new markets and to promote Alberta manufacturing on an international scale.