BY KIM GUTTORMSON, CALGARY HERALD
The promise of jobs is again luring people to Alberta, with the most Canadians heading here in the first three months of this year since the start of the boom.
Between January and the end of March, an estimated 5,300 more people moved to the province than left, according to Statistics Canada, the best first quarter since 2006.
Last year, net migration in those three months was 300.
"Especially in the past three or four months, the market has definitely picked up, especially in the energy professions," said Dale Pauls, recruiting manager for GFR Recruiting, which focuses on engineers. "The oilsands are definitely the buzzword out there."
Most of the new Albertans were coming from B.C., Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador, Statistics Canada demographer Jonathan Chagnon said.
Alberta saw a 0.4 per cent increase in population between January and April, while the Canadian increase was 0.2 per cent.
"We had expected this after falling during the recession that migration would pick back up," said Dan Sumner, economist with ATB Financial. "The job market is probably the most important thing.
"Overall, Canada's in great shape compared to the other developed nations, so that's going to attract people. And when you look within Canada, all the action's happening in Western Canada, and Newfoundland and Labrador."
A better chance of employment in Atlantic Canada could hurt Alberta, Sumner added, with many East Coast workers traditionally making the trek west for work.
Leone Joubert, CEO of West Works, which specializes in IT recruiting, said the company has noticed an increase in applications from other provinces, notably Ontario.
While most jobs are still filled from within Alberta, Joubert pointed out that "local talent is still available, but running out," adding the first three months of this year was the busiest first quarter she's had in nine years.
After the economy began slowing down, Alberta actually saw negative net migration in late 2009, with more people leaving the province than moving in. At the height of the boom, Calgary alone was adding between 17,000 and 25,000 people a year to its population through interprovincial and international immigration.
With the province easing out of the economic slow down, Alberta could face a shortage of 77,000 workers over the next 10 years, the provincial government has predicted.
"Within Canada, Alberta is a beacon of economic recovery," Thomas Lukaszuk, minister of employment and immigration said. "Canadians are picking up and moving to where the jobs are."
While he believes the public sector and private businesses are better prepared for an influx of people than during the boom, Lukaszuk said given the swath of baby boomers that will begin to retire this year, "we're walking into the perfect demographic storm where there will be severe and prolonged shortages."
The StatsCan numbers showed that while the numbers moving to Alberta from other provinces were solid, the number of those moving from other countries was the lowest first quarter since 2004.
"I think that number is a report card of the fact that Canada's national immigration policies are simply lacking and are not reflective of what the western provinces and the industries in the western provinces require," Lukaszuk said, adding that other countries do a better job of attracting workers.
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