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Canada Weekly: Alberta Powers Ahead

Even as the rest of Canada experiences only lackluster growth, Alberta's expansion is gaining strength. Year-ago household employment growth in the country's other provinces decelerated to an anemic 0.1% in February, but Alberta's growth reached year-ago rates close to 4%. Alberta payrolls at the end of 2013 were 11% above their prerecession peak, compared with 2% elsewhere.

The mineral-rich province's widening lead over the rest of the country has prompted more in-migration, boosting Alberta's labor force 3.6% in the last year compared with 0.1% in the rest of Canada. Alberta's unemployment rate remains from 2.5 to 3.5 percentage points below the average elsewhere. Although oil drives Alberta's boom, the effects of increased oil production have spilled over to other sectors, so that mining accounts for around the same share of total employment as it did before the recession.

Strong employment gains and labor force growth have kept Alberta's unemployment rate between 4% and 5% over the last two years, compared with 7% to 8% for the rest of Canada. The tight labor market has lifted Alberta's average weekly earnings 27% above those elsewhere. Yet rapid earnings growth has pushed Alberta's inflation rate above the Canadian average, reducing the difference in real earnings growth; still, Alberta has had faster real earnings growth over the last four years. Average household net worth reached $682,000 in Alberta in 2012, even as average household debt rose to $137,000, compared with $589,000 and $95,000 elsewhere.

David Rosenblum is an Economist at Moody's Analytics.

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