Canadian Manufacturing

Study shows lure of jobs in Alberta not enough to get people to stay

Only one in four workers heading to Alberta for jobs decided to make province their primary residence



CALGARY—A Statistics Canada study suggests that the lure of jobs in Alberta’s energy sector isn’t enough to persuade out-of-province workers to make a permanent move.

The study found there were plenty of people moving to Alberta between 2004 and 2009, but only one in four who were coming for jobs decided to make Alberta their primary residence.

They listed their home province on their tax returns.

“While some of the inter-provincial workers observed in this study subsequently made a residential move to Alberta, at least as identified on their T1 tax return, most did not,” wrote the authors, Christine Laporte, Yuqian Lu and Grant Schellenberg.

“It is likely that factors such as family ties, social networks, organizational arrangements (e.g. daycare, school enrolment), home ownership and quality of life were important factors,” they wrote.

“Nonetheless, the prospects of readily available jobs elsewhere had appeal. When weighed against the costs of moving inter-provincially, the benefits of working inter-provincially was the option chosen by these individuals,” said the report.

“Quite clearly, people react to employment opportunities in various ways, and, more broadly, labour markets adjust in various ways.”

About three-quarters of the job seekers were men under the age of 35 from British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada.

Roughly half of those were employed in construction and oil and gas extraction.

More than one-third of female inter-provincial employees were working in accommodation and food services or retail trade.

In 2004, there were between 62,000 and 67,500 inter-provincial employees in Alberta, accounting for about 3.8 per cent of provincial employment.

By 2008, the number of inter-provincial employees had increased to a peak of 133,000, making up 6.2 per cent of the workforce.

The figures fell somewhat in 2009 following the recession.

Alberta’s booming energy sector, tied largely to development of the oilsands in northern Alberta, has created a chronic shortfall of qualified workers in recent years.

As a result, there has been an increased reliance on temporary foreign workers.

More than 330,000 workers live and work in Canada as part of the federal temporary foreign worker program—a number that has nearly tripled over the last 10 years, with the bulk of those job seekers going west in search of work.

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