Premier’s claims of Sask. economy “leading the nation” not far off

Premier Scott Moe has claimed that Saskatchewan’s economy is “leading the nation.”

Recent labour force numbers from Statistics Canada show Saskatchewan isn’t the leading nation but is among the best in Canada in terms of its economy.

Saskatchewan’s employment rate (64.1 per cent) is third, the unemployment rate (4.7) sits tied for third, and the province’s participation rate (67.2) is second to only Alberta.

Jason Childs, the associate professor of economics at the University of Regina, said while the province isn’t leading the nation now, the future is looking bright.

“By most measures, we are tied with Alberta in terms of growth expected over the course of the next year,” he said. “Alberta and Saskatchewan are likely to lead economic growth over the next year. Our average-earned incomes are pretty high, our labour force participation is relatively high, so my most markers, we are doing pretty well.”

Childs said Saskatchewan’s economy is booming for quite a few reasons.

“One of the things that have been moving in our favour is commodity prices,” he said. “Over the last year and a half or so, commodity prices have really grown, and it’s on the things that we actually produce, things like agricultural products, potash, oil, etc. All those prices are relatively high compared to where they were four or five years ago.”

“We’ve done a relatively good job of attracting investment, not only in the primary extraction industry but also we are starting to see some investment in the value-added side of the change,” he continued. “We are talking about canola processing facilities, wheat processing facilities, so we are starting to move up that value-added chain.”

A ‘Provincial Economic Forecast’ conducted by TD Canada economists shows that the Land of the Living Skies is set to see its Real gross domestic product (GDP) grow in 2023.

Childs added that GDP growth is another good indicator of a province’s strong economy.

According to TD’s economic outlook, Saskatchewan is set for an increase of two per cent, tied for first in the country.

“Saskatchewan should be one of the nation’s growth leaders in 2023,” the forecast said. “It looks like Saskatchewan’s economy was carrying solid momentum into 2023 and started the year on the right footing.”

The forecast listed increased commodity prices for wheat, canola, and potash as key contributors and saw agricultural and oil production expected to climb in 2023 as reasons for the growth.

While the economy is booming, Saskatchewan has seen its labour force only grow by 600 people in 2023 and has lost 1,700 jobs in the new year.

The Sask. NDP has criticized Premier Moe for lack of job growth in the province, in which Saskatchewan sits towards the bottom of the country.

Childs said that seeing more people work would benefit the province; with such a high participation rate and low unemployment rate, there need to be more workers to fill jobs.

“The population has been growing, employment growth hasn’t been as high in Saskatchewan as it has been in other juridistrcitons, but the problem is, even if we added 10,000 new jobs, who’s going to fill them?” Childs noted. “We have remarkably low unemployment, and our labour force participating rates are pretty high, and so it’s not like there are people sitting around saying I need a job.”

He noted that while the province’s economy looks positive, people are still struggling.

“Even in booming economies, you are going to see people struggling, and that’s something we really have some intelligent policy discussions around it. Even at the best of times, they are people who don’t get to participate in the economy.”

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