Calgary sees record annual population growth, expects decrease in job growth rate: report

Pedestrians walk along Stephen Avenue in downtown Calgary in this file photo. (Monty Kruger/CBC - image credit)
Pedestrians walk along Stephen Avenue in downtown Calgary in this file photo. (Monty Kruger/CBC - image credit)

Calgary has seen a record annual population surge, according to a city report, and is expecting continued economic growth in 2023, exceeding Alberta and Canada's respective GDP growth rates, according to the city's spring economic outlook.

A City of Calgary report, published Monday, estimated Calgary's population as of April 1 to be 1,389,200, which represents a 3.0 per cent annual population increase since April 2022.

According to the city, that addition of about 40,600 people is the greatest annual population growth Calgary has ever seen, based on the existing data.

Oyin Shyllon, the city's chief economist, put the report together. He chalks up the growth to ambitious federal government policy and immigration plans, and relative levels of affordability, compared with other big cities in the country.

Last year, the federal Liberal government announced a new immigration plan that would see Canada welcome 500,000 immigrants per year by 2025.

He added that a lot of people within Canada have chosen to move to the city.

"If you look at many of the other big cities in the country and if you're thinking of where to move and you're looking for a metropolis, Calgary will be right, right up there on your list."

The population growth is expected to continue over the next five years.

"Calgary's population should increase by 108,400 people between 2023 and 2028," reads the report.

"The number of elementary and pre-elementary school-aged children (zero to nine years) should achieve a forecast horizon peak of 162,600 in 2024 before declining to 161,700 by 2028."

Job and workforce imbalance

The report suggests this influx in population will lead to a steady supply of workers for job vacancies.

But the city's job creation rate is seeing a major decrease to 3.1 per cent this year from 7.3 per cent in 2022.

While the city's report states this decrease in job creation is a result of "a shift from getting workers to getting the right match between job seekers and employers," Anupam Das, a professor of economics at Mount Royal University, said the issue is more complicated.

Calgary annual net migration: 2014 to 2023

He believes one of the biggest drivers of population growth is migration and immigration. Those coming in, however, are overqualified for the jobs that are available.

"I don't think right now there is a big demand for super, highly educated workers in our economy. We need workers for warehouses, for example," Das said.

"When people come into our city, unless we can create that matching for those people, and unless we can create those specific jobs that we can offer those people, it's not going to help our economy too much."

City estimates show Calgary growing by 62 new residents a day for the next several years, adding about 110,000 people by 2027.

Inflation could hinder economic growth

The report also indicated that Alberta's annual inflation rate should gradually decrease to 3.4 per cent this year from 6.4 per cent in 2022. It stated that while inflation rates should recede to pre-pandemic levels by 2024, the pace of that decrease is not certain.

Das said while he does see growth potential for Calgary's economy in the coming years, he's not exactly as optimistic as the city's report seems to be.

"I'm cautiously optimistic for a number of reasons," said Das.

"We still have issues related to supply-chain management and all, so some of those external issues may cause problems in the near future."

Factors like the Ukraine-Russia war could still affect local inflation rates for months or years to come, Das said.

Calgary annual job growth rate

According to the report, the real GDP growth rate for the regional economy would be behind the global economy but strong enough to stay ahead of the provincial, Canadian and U.S economies in 2023.

The City of Calgary releases economic outlook reports twice a year, in the spring and fall. This year's spring outlook can be found on the city's website.