Alberta’s Demand for Workers is Affecting the Labour Market in BC

May 3, 2014
Ken Peacock

Within Canada there are no restrictions on labour mobility. People move freely between provinces to find employment, to retire, to attend school, or for other reasons. The past few years have seen mounting anecdotal evidence that strong demand for workers in Alberta is impacting the BC labour market by luring younger, often skilled workers from this province. Some employers in BC report they have been losing employees to our eastern neighbour. Looking ahead, this trend is likely to contribute to a tightening of the BC labour market as economic growth gradually accelerates.


  • Through inter-provincial migration, BC has experienced a significant loss of working-age individuals to Alberta over the past two years.
  • This flow of people is skewed heavily towards younger people, which suggests they are moving to secure better jobs and perhaps also to take advantage of lower housing costs in Alberta.
  • The net outflow of people to Alberta is still somewhat lower than in the late 1990s. We note that the latter years of the 1990s were characterized by higher unemployment with few reports of skill shortages.
  • Recent analysis of interprovincial workers indicates that in 2009 there were as many as 29,000 people working in Alberta but still residing in BC. This was equivalent to about 1.2% of all workers in BC. The 29,000 figure does not include British Columbians who have shifted their province of residence to Alberta.
  • More than half of these 29,000 interprovincial employees were below the age of 35.
  • While the interprovincial flow of people moving or commuting to secure work is part of a healthy and well-functioning Canadian economy, because labour market conditions are tighter than in the late 1990s and the number of interprovincial employees has risen over the past decade it is clear that the robust demand for workers in Alberta is adding to hiring challenges in some sectors of the BC economy.

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