People are Moving to Alberta
Recent data from the moving company U-Haul suggests more people moved into Alberta in 2021 than any other province. In fact, Alberta jumped from being the third most moved-to province in 2020 to overtaking British Columbia for top spot. The number one city in the province for U-Haul arrivals last year was Calgary! Calgary’s bedroom community of Airdrie was also a destination of choice, ranking 24th nationally, a drop from its 19th place the year prior. In 2021, the communities of Red Deer and Medicine Hat also received a significant influx of U-Haul trucks, ranking 8th and 15th respectively, which again is remarkable as neither city placed in the top 25 the year prior. These smaller locations that are experiencing an influx of people is a continuation of a trend that began in 2020 and is related to COVID-19: people are leaving densely populated cities across Canada for suburban or even rural areas. Many people can now work from anywhere, no longer tied to an urban core, a trend unlikely to reverse itself at this point. A lower cost of living often lends itself to a better lifestyle, a suspected reason for the influx of new residents. Alberta has some of the least expensive real estate in this country, particularly when we consider that Calgary is the fourth largest city in Canada.
U-Haul’s Vice-President for Western Canada is quoted in a news article suggesting that it is Alberta’s initiatives to create jobs that is attracting new residents. Nonetheless, even the company cautions that its annual Growth Index is not a direct measure of population growth. Not everyone uses a U-Haul to move, right? International immigrants arrive by plane, and older or wealthier folks will likely use a moving company rather than do it themselves, as might those doing cross-country moves. Instead, the company advises that its index is a gauge for how well cities do in attracting residents. This commentary suggests that Calgary is doing a great job of marketing itself as a location with potential, particularly for job-seekers who are mobile.
Statistics can be tough, so we need to dig deeper than the pretty headlines. Nationally, Calgary ranks as the fifth most moved to city in our country, which is still significant considering it did not even rank in the top 25 cities the year prior. U-Haul reports there was a 33% increase in one-way truck arrivals coming into Alberta in 2021 when compared to 2020, which is a huge jump. However, there was also a 29% increase in departures, meaning there was actually only 4% more arrivals than departures by U-Haul. Another statistic from the 2021 index suggests that 51% of U-Haul’s traffic into Alberta was inflow, meaning 49% was outflow! That latter statistic is more in-line with the Albertan government’s statistic that Alberta had a growth rate of less than 1% (0.90%) between October 2020 and October 2021.
Table 1 below outlines the shifting sentiments of where U-Haul rental trucks have ended their journeys over the last five years. In 2017, Calgary and Edmonton were the number two and three cities arrived at by U-Haul in Canada, while no other Albertan locations made the top-25 list. In 2018, only two Northern Albertan cities placed in the top-25 list. By 2019 not a single Albertan city made the top-25 list for one-way U-Haul rentals, and in 2020 only Red Deer and Medicine Hat were on the list. Having four Albertan cities in the top 25 most moved to cities by U-Haul suggests a possible trend reversal in terms of where people are relocating. For Calgary to place in the top five of National cities hints at a return to urbanity, and a focus on Southern Alberta. Or at minimum, people are moving to less expensive real-estate locations in Alberta from other areas of Canada
Table 1. U-Haul Growth Index Rankings (Source: MyU-HaulStory.com)
But who are our new neighbours exactly? Unfortunately, there is little data available from official government sources, either provincial or national. We know international immigration made up almost half of the recent population growth throughout Alberta, and we also know a significant number of new residents came from Manitoba and Saskatchewan. It has yet to be published the age group, sex, or marital status of our new residents.
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