Canada’s top oil- and gas-producing province is expected to score the nation’s strongest comeback this year on improved commodity prices after taking the biggest dive in 2020 driven by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report.


As measured in 2012 dollars, the “real” trend yardstick used by the Conference Board of Canada, Alberta’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 7.8% to C$320 billion ($256 billion) last year. For 2021, the board forecasts a 7.2% recovery to C$343 billion ($274.4 billion).

As recorded by the conference board’s current dollar accounts, Alberta rode a wild economic roller coaster after a “double whammy” of collapsing energy prices and Covid-19 hit early in 2020. In current dollars, Alberta’s GDP plunged by 11.5% to C$312 billion ($250 billion) in 2020. A 14.9% rebound is forecast to C$358.6 billion ($287 billion) for 2021.

“Alberta’s economic recovery has benefited from the recent rebound in oil prices,” the board said.

“We expect prices to keep climbing for the rest of this year and into 2022 as a result of rising global demand and declining excess capacity” in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

The board added, “At the same time, natural gas prices have been on a decent trajectory, despite the pandemic.”

The Canadian national GDP loss during pandemic year 2020 was a less drastic 5.4% to C$1.98 trillion ($1.58 trillion), the board calculates. A 6.1% recovery to C$2.1 trillion ($1.68 trillion) is forecast for 2021.

The board also acknowledged that GDP, as a statistic limited to measuring market value for goods and services, does not tell all about investment and employment.

In Alberta, the board cautioned, “A factor that could restrain the strength of the recovery is the outlook for capital investment. Recent business intentions surveys suggest that investment in the oil and gas industry will remain well below pre-pandemic levels through the next few years.”

Employment recovery is also lagging GDP performance.

The Alberta unemployment rate, formerly the lowest in Canada for generations, leaped to 11.6% in 2020 – or the second-highest provincial jobless count after 14.2% in Newfoundland and Labrador.

For 2021, the board forecasts a modest Alberta unemployment rate improvement to 9.1% – still the second highest in Canada after 13.6% in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Meanwhile Calgary, which is considered Canada’s oil and gas capital, is still struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and years of lower oil and gas prices.

The city’s downtown office vacancy rate hovers in a range of 24-27%, or about quadruple the volume of empty space in 2014.