Alberta not likely to go into a house buying spree anytime soon

Constrained purchasing power and comparatively limited prospects were running themes for Alberta for much of this year, with the province’s households on assistance having doubled since 2007.

“By some measures the recession in Alberta following the 2015 fall in energy prices has ended but for those households forced onto social assistance it shows little sign of abating,” according to Margarita Wilkins, research associate at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.

Data from the CMHC and the provincial government showed that as of July 2019, the share of Alberta households relying upon social benefits was at 3.7%.

This is already in the neighbourhood of the proportion observable in red-hot Ontario, which reached a social-assistance dependency rate of 4.4% during that month.

“The largest part of the increase in the reliance on Alberta Works benefits is due to the recession in the energy sector, which was sparked by the fall in energy prices in 2015 and which has been prolonged by the uncertainty surrounding pipeline construction and approvals for other energy projects,” Wilkins wrote in her recent contribution to the Financial Post.

These struggles were reflective of a malaise in the national economy, which suffered a relative slowdown in July after four straight months of growth, Statistics Canada figures indicated.

Weakness in the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction sectors contributed to the general deceleration. Together, these industries suffered the largest contraction since May 2016, declining by 3.5% in July.

This will likely weigh upon purchasing power, especially in the still-recovering regions hardest hit by the oil price crashes over the past few years. Western Canada will particularly feel the impact, StatsCan warned.

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