A large number of farmers migrated to Alberta from Europe, the U.S., and Canada with the introduction of rail transport at the end of the 19th century. This can be explained with the fertile soil in Alberta, which is perfect for harvesting wheat. With time the economy of the province became more diversified and Alberta established itself as an oil-exporting province.

Major Industries

The economy of Alberta is dominated by natural gas and oil extraction. Other sectors are also well-developed, including manufacturing, finance, tourism, education, forestry, and agriculture. Gas and oil extraction and quarrying and mining accounted for close to 21 percent of the gross domestic product of Alberta. Leasing, rentals, and real estate accounted for more than 11 percent, construction for over 9.8 percent, and manufacturing for more than 6.4 percent. Sectors that account for 4 or more percent include warehousing and transportation, public administration, social assistance and healthcare, and insurance and finance. Sectors that account for less than 2 percent include recreation, entertainment, and arts, utilities, and hunting, fishing, forestry, and agriculture.

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Top Employers

According to Mediacorp Canada, top employers in Alberta are Alberta Blue Cross, Agrium Inc., Agriculture Financial Services Corporation, ATB Financial, and others. Employers were evaluated on the basis of factors such as time off, family, financial, and health benefits, social and workplace atmosphere, and workplace conditions. Other indicators were also factored in, including community involvement, skills development and training, and performance management. The majority of companies are based in Calgary (38) and Edmonton (25). It may not come as a surprise that many of the companies are involved in energy production.

Employers operate across different industries, including warehousing and transportation, food services and accommodation, educational services, retail trade, and others. In 2017, some 274,100 persons were employed in the social assistance and healthcare sector, followed by retail trade (241,600), and technical, scientific, and professional services (178,700). In general, service and sales occupations top the list, followed by equipment, transport, and trades operators and administration, finance, and business. The average hourly rate is the highest in the utilities sector, followed by gas, oil, fishing, and forestry and public administration. The lowest paid jobs are concentrated in sectors such as food services and accommodation, agriculture, and retail and wholesale trade.

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Population growth is mainly due to migration. The good news is that Alberta has the youngest workforce in Canada (median age of 36.7 years), followed by Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon, Ontario, and British Columbia. The province takes pride in having a highly educated labor force – close to 22 percent of residents have a high school diploma, 6.1 percent have some post-secondary education, 34 percent hold a diploma or postsecondary certificate, and 28.5 percent hold a university degree. Workforce participation rates are also higher (72.4 percent) compared to provinces such as Ontario (64.9 percent), British Columbia (65.3 percent), Prince Edward Island (66 percent).

Challenges and Future Prospects

In the view of Todd Hirsh, a chief economist at ATB, one of the main challenges is the fact that there are fewer job openings in the gas and oil industry. These jobs are better paid than other positions. This may also be an indicator that the energy sector is not the driving force of the economy any longer. This is particularly true for Calgary where sectors that are expected to contribute to economic growth include technology, transportation, tourism, and agrifood production and agriculture.

Alberta Government

The New Democratic Party formed government in Alberta in 2015 after winning 40.6 percent of the vote. Critics claim that the government is bad for business because of its labor friendly policies, increased regulation, and tougher taxation.


During its electoral campaign, the New Democratic Party highlighted the need of a new fiscal plan, investment in education, improved public healthcare, and a diversified economy. The party promised to increase the minimum wage to $15 and to improve quality of life in rural areas through better access to education, long-term care, hospitals, and transportation. Economic diversification was set as one of the main priorities, including diversification across industries such as tourism, food processing, forestry, wind power generation, high tech, and many others. Other priority areas also include restructuring of the healthcare system, improved public homecare, reduced emergency waiting times, and improved access to family doctors. Finally, the party also promised to provide funding to technical institutes, universities, colleges, and school boards to ensure that Albertians enjoy improved access to quality education.

Oil and Gas

In 2015, the oil and gas industry was suffering in Alberta because of the sharp decline in oil prices. The government announced a plan to create a royalty review committee to raise the charges that energy businesses owe to the government. The committee was created nine months later which resulted in increased economic uncertainty and loss of confidence on the part of potential investors. To top this, one cabinet Minister, Lori Sigurdson campaigned for candidate Jacqui Gingras who is known for organizing anti-pipe rallies. The fact that a cabinet minister shows support for anti-oil initiatives is certain to discourage potential investors from starting up a business or expanding operations.

The government has implemented a tax increase of 20 percent which hit small and large businesses across different sectors. Critics highlight the fact that tax increases during a period of recession only make things worse as the economy relies on businesses to create jobs and to contribute to sustainable growth. To add salt to injury, the NDP government has increased taxes on higher earners and the personal income tax and announced plans to raise the carbon tax rate in order to minimize carbon pollution. Personal income tax on the incomes of higher earners (over $150,000) has increased from 14.7 percent to 16.8 percent while corporate income tax has increased from 11 percent to 12 percent. When it comes to carbon tax, the government announced that the funds will be used to support green initiatives.

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In 2016, wages dropped by 3.8 percent in Alberta while wages actually increased in provinces such as British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. The weekly wage dropped to $1,118. As of 2018, the minimum wage in Alberta is $15 which is higher than the minimum wage in other provinces and territories – Newfoundland and Labrador ($11.15), New Brunswick ($11.25), Nova Scotia ($11.00), Northwest Territories ($13.46), etc. Critics point to the fact that the wage increase places an undue burden on businesses in Alberta as they are forced to increase labor costs.

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Positive Developments

Proponents highlight the fact that the NDP government has reduced medical services premiums and provided funding for homeless housing and new rental housing.

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