Comparing the economy during Notley’s & Kenney’s first years in office

Last week, I reported on Alberta’s economic environment for 2019. I also framed the story as the economy under Jason Kenney’s first year. Someone asked me to do the same thing for Rachel Notley’s first year.

Last week, I reported on Alberta’s economic environment for 2019, specifically how it compared to 2018’s. I also framed the story as the economy under Jason Kenney’s first year.

When I shared it on Facebook, someone asked me to do the same thing for Rachel Notley’s first year. Here’s what Alberta’s economy looked like in 2015.

Alberta Activity Index

The first metric in the data was the Alberta Activity Index, which is a weighted average of the following 9 monthly indicators:

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  • Employment
  • Average weekly earnings
  • Retail trade
  • Wholesale trade
  • Manufacturing shipments
  • New truck sales
  • Housing starts
  • Rigs drilling
  • Oil production

Introduced in 1981, the AAX had steadily increased since then, other than a dip in 2008/2009 and again in 2014/2015. The 2015 data I accessed didn’t report on the AAX, but see the chart below.

Alberta Activity Index Data Table (January 1981 to April 2020)

AAX fell in every month of 2015. In fact, by March 2015, it had already dropped below 2014’s lowest point.


Employment under the PC’s last year had increased 2.2%. It also increased under the NDP’s first year: by 1.2%. The participation rate increased from 72.7% in 2014 to 73.0% in 2015, which helped bump the unemployment rate to 6.0% in 2015 from the 4.7% it was the year before.

Weekly earnings had decreased to $1,146 in 2015 from $1,149 in 2014.

Consumer behaviour

In 2014, retail sales were $78.6 billion in Alberta, an increase of 7.5% over 2013. They dropped by 4.6% in 2015 to $75 billion.

New vehicle sales were also down—242,000, compared to 277,000—a 12.7% drop in 2015.

The consumer price index was up 1.1% in 2015, compared to an increase of 2.6% in 2014.

Housing starts were down by 8.1% in 2015.

The number of consumer bankruptcies were up by 13.5% in 2015.

Business behaviour

During 2015, Alberta’s business sector exported $92.4 billion worth of goods, a 23.9% decrease over the $121.5 billion in 2014. Energy exports alone were lower in 2015 at $92.4 billion over 2014’s $121.5 billion, a decrease of 31.6%.

2015 saw the number of rigs drilling drop in half (120) compared to 2014 (252), which itself was 7.4% higher than the number drilling in 2013.

Manufacturing shipments were down in 2015 ($68 billion) from 2014 ($78.9 billion), which was 7.5% higher than 2013.

Wholesale trade was also lower in 2015 (13.8%) than it was in 2014, which was up by 8.1% over 2013’s trade numbers.

Now that I got those out of the way, let’s compare Notley’s first year (2015) and Kenney’s first year (2019):

AAX (monthly avg)274.3280.9
Participation rate (%)73.071.4
Unemployment (%)6.06.9
Weekly earnings$1,146$1,165
Retail sales$74,989,000$81,135,000
New vehicle sales242,000222,000
Consumer price index (% change)1.11.8
Housing starts37,30027,300
Consumer bankruptcies4,2805,589
Business exports$92,425,000$117,170,000
Energy exports$62,485,000$84,490,000
Rigs driling12092
Manufacturing shipments$68,045,000$76,189,000
Wholesale trade$79,801,000$81,450,000

Keep in mind that Alberta had a recession in 2015 and 2019’s numbers are before the stock market crash, oil price collapse, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even so, it’ll be interesting to see how their last years compare.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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