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Alberta is one of only two regions of Canada with rising pessimism about future employment, survey suggests

The Conference Board of Canada says consumer data suggests the impact of the pandemic as well as ongoing energy industry concerns are weighing on consumer attitudes in Alberta in February.

Almost half of Albertans believe there will be fewer jobs 6 months from now, Conference Board of Canada finds

The Conference Board of Canada's national consumer confidence index inched up to 91.1 in February, but in Alberta it dropped 6.3 points to 58.3. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

The Conference Board of Canada says consumer data suggests the impact of the pandemic as well as ongoing energy industry concerns are weighing on consumer attitudes in Alberta.

According to its monthly Index of consumer confidence, Alberta's score in February dropped 6.3 points to 58.3 — falling back below the pre-pandemic level after recovering somewhat in previous months.

The board found that Alberta was one of only two regions last month — along with Saskatchewan/Manitoba — that showed rising pessimism about future employment.

While Alberta's index was up in January, the board says factors like the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline project are weighing heavily on Albertans' confidence about the future.

Nearly half of the Alberta survey respondents said they believe there will be fewer jobs six months from now.

The board's chief economist, Pedro Antunes, says consumer confidence about finances also weakened, with some Albertans holding back on major purchases last month.

"I think consumer confidence is still a little bit more optimistic in Alberta right now than it was, let's say, in the first five or six months after the worst of the pandemic," he said.

At the national level, the index inched up less than half a point to 91.1, showing a lingering sense of unease, the board said. The index remains 25 per cent below pre-pandemic levels.

"Consumer sentiment regarding major purchases deteriorated in all regions of Canada after three consecutive monthly increases. Only 19.7 per cent of survey respondents in February said now is a good time to make a major purchase," the board said in a release.

Antunes says there's reason to think the COVID-19 vaccine rollout will help drive the economy later this year.

The index, which uses a baseline of 100, is based on a survey of Canadian households about their current and expected financial positions; how they view the short-term employment outlook in their region; and their assessment of whether now is a good or bad time to make a major purchase such as a house or vehicle.

When the index is above 100, it indicates optimism; below 100, it indicates a negative outlook.

With files from Dave Gilson

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