Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 continued to weigh on economic activity in the first quarter. Despite some changes in restrictions throughout the quarter, Alberta largely maintained strict gathering, travel and business occupancy restrictions.

This is weighing on economic activity and migration, but higher-than-expected energy prices are supporting some improvements in the energy sector. For the job market, this has produced mixed results.

Improvements in the energy sector have translated into job growth in both the primary and utilities sector and the professional, scientific and technical services. Those two industries combined saw 9,000 more jobs this quarter than what we had in the last quarter of 2020. There were also significant gains in the educational services sector, which recorded over 14,000 new jobs in the first quarter compared to the last quarter of 2020.

Some sectors continue to struggle. Quarterly job loss was recorded in sectors impacted by restrictions, including entertainment, food, transportation, wholesale trade and other services. There was also significant job loss in public administration positions and manufacturing. Job losses in these sectors offset the gains and Calgary saw nearly 8,000 jobs lost overall compared to the fourth quarter of 2020.

Vaccinations are rising, but the recent spike in COVID-19 variant cases will likely result in restrictions persisting throughout most of the second quarter. This is also causing some shifts in the employment forecast, with job improvements now being delayed into the third and fourth quarters of this year. Despite these shifts, a stronger-than-expected energy sector has sped up the predicted pace of full post-pandemic job recovery from 2023 to next year.