By all accounts, Alberta’s recovery has been long, slow and a bit tortuous. Kind of like the last 10+ seasons of the Edmonton Oilers. According to economists, rising incomes, combined with continuing population growth, helped to buttress retail and other components of both the region’s and the city’s economies so far this year, but growth has been disappointing in the 1.3% range.
Previous risks identified are expected to continue and will likely offset gains in other areas. For Edmonton these include:
Oil prices falling again and/or an increase in the price differential between West Texas Intermediate and Western Canadian Select. While the previous government was able to reduce this gap, increased supply (Americans fracking activity and Donald Trump’s aggressive energy policy) could signal lower prices.
Continued challenges getting our oil to current and potential new markets either by rail or pipeline. I don’t think I need to expand on this although there has been some progress in the Transmountain debate!
Stricter controls on carbon emissions and political and public opposition to energy projects continues to constrain longer term growth in the energy sector. Not sure it matters what side of the political coin you are on but I have no doubt that it is the continued legislative uncertainty and political rhetoric that is giving industry nightmares. Nobody likes uncertainty!
And the continuing international trade conflicts or threatened conflicts continue to rock the markets and serve to depress the global economy. The US seems intent on winning concessions and the various posturing of nation leaders has hit close to home as China has banned Canadian pork and canola, directly impacting Alberta farmers.
But what has this meant for the Edmonton IT sector? While economic growth in 2019 has been marginal, the IT sector continues to thrive. Looking back at internal numbers from this time last year would suggest little has changed. Our clients continue to seek talent for key projects and they continue to ask Eagle to provide them with that talent to move initiatives forward. Edmonton’s diversity is again its best defense.
Perhaps the only blip on the radar has been the fallout from the election of a new provincial government. As is often the case in these scenarios, the new government has decided that it is best to freeze hiring on projects and according to our sources, existing contracts are being allowed to end naturally and extensions are not being offered. A significant uptick in applications to our Eagle website is evidence that there has been a recent surge in available resources. This could mean greater competition for jobs and contracts. Typically these are short lived interruptions but with the province in debt, and a government that campaigned on getting the debt under control, it might be too early to predict with certainty that hiring will begin again soon. The provincial government is a massive user of contract IT resources so this will have to be monitored.
So what is hot in the market. We saw the following “Hot Skills” in the first half of 2019 and all indications are that these skillsets will be in demand for the rest of the year. There are a couple of more that we’ve added to the list:
Microsoft Stack Expertise (C#, HTML, CSS etc.)
Infrastructure Specialists (VMWare)
Network Analysts (for cloud preparation)
Agile Project Managers