Report examines Alberta labour market, impact of labour shortages

(Edmonton) The scope of Alberta’s labour shortage and the need for recommendations on how to address it were the catalyst for a year-and-a-half-long study of one of the province’s most pressing policy challenges.

The University of Alberta’s Institute for Public Economics commissioned the study to foster informed debate on the highly relevant policy issue.

An Examination of Alberta Labour Markets explains that the opportunity cost of not filling jobs under an economic scenario similar to that outlined in Alberta’s 2013 budget is $33 billion in current dollars over four years. Lost personal tax revenue to the provincial and federal governments is estimated to be nearly $6.8 billion over four years.

The report emphasizes that several industries risk significant shortages—including retail, hotel and food services, and health care. Edmonton and the Banff–Jasper region are two areas at the greatest risk for labour shortages.

To counteract these trends, the report’s authors developed a number of recommendations to provide access to otherwise untapped labour groups including mature workers, disabled people and First Nations people.

“This comprehensive analysis leads to a number of concrete policy actions that can be taken by both the federal and Alberta governments,” said Robert Ascah, director of the institute. “The report’s recommendations are aimed at developing a highly skilled workforce, which will benefit all Albertans.

“This means attracting the most skilled workers possible and ensuring we are doing everything we can to have apprentices complete their training.”

The study was funded by the Government of Alberta and 12 associations and unions with an interest in addressing periodic labour shortages in Alberta. The research for the report was carried out by the Western Centre for Economic Research, professor Joseph Marchand, Applications Management Consulting Ltd. and the Conference Board of Canada.