The chief at Calgary Economic Development says the early indication from 2011 statistics shows “western Canada’s most vibrant economy is back on a roll.”
A few of the promising numbers include the city’s unemployment rate dropping to 4.9 per cent from 7.7 per cent in May 2010, employment growth rate of 4.9 per cent accounting for more than 16 per cent of all the jobs created in Canada, retail sales rebounding from negative growth in 2009 to 4.5 per cent growth last year and Calgary expecting to be among the top three Canadian cities this year (Saskatoon and Edmonton are the others) for GDP growth with a 3.6 per cent gain.
The latest results from the Business Barometer survey from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) shows confidence in the economy across all of Alberta. Although the province’s small business owners’ confidence dropped 0.3 points from December to 73.3 in January, Alberta’s entrepreneurs remain the most confident in Canada – eight points higher than the national index of 65.2.
Despite the confidence in the economy, 46 per cent of small business owners surveyed said the shortage of skilled labour was their main operating challenge. On March 1, a number of business associations in Wild Rose Country banded together to address the issue. In total, 19 organizations have teamed up to form the Alberta Coalition for Action on Labour Shortages (ACALS).
According to the group, the provincial government is forecasting a shortage of 114,000 jobs in the coming years, which will be hurt economic growth in Western Canada. To combat the problem, ACALS is recommending:
- Change the point system of the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) to place greater emphasis on labour demand and validated employment offers
- Expand opportunities to transition temporary workers to permanent immigrants such as the Provincial Immigrant Nominee Program and the Canadian Experience Class
- Change National Occupation Codes (NOC), used in both the permanent and temporary streams, to reflect employer needs and recognize a broader range of existing skilled positions
- Reform Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) processes to recognize employer pre-qualification, cross-industry based shortages of workers, and streamline the application and approval process