Executive summary

In 2004, there were approximately 62,000 to 67,500 inter-provincial employees working in Alberta, accounting for about 3.6% to 3.8% of provincial employment. By 2008, the inter-provincial workforce in the province had increased to about 122,500 to 133,000 individuals, accounting for about 5.7% to 6.2% of provincial employment and about 3.5% of provincial T4 earnings. These figures fell somewhat in 2009 with the economic downturn. In most years, the number of inter-provincial employees in Alberta was considerably higher than the number of new residents moving to the province.

This study uses administrative data to provide estimates and descriptive information on inter-provincial employees working in Alberta between 2004 and 2009. Data from several administrative sources between 2003 and 2010, including T4 (Statement of Remuneration Paid) and T1 (General Tax Form) files, were used to provide comprehensive and new information on inter-provincial employees in Alberta. Individuals in this group were identified as those who received T4 earnings in Alberta during a given year but who reported that they resided in another province or territory on their T1 returns.

Men accounted for 71% to 74% of inter-provincial employees in Alberta between 2005 and 2009. As well, through the 2000s, a growing share of the inter-provincial workforce consisted of older employees. The share of Alberta’s inter-provincial workforce consisting of individuals aged 45 to 64 increased by almost 9 percentage points over the reference period while the share of employees aged 18 to 24 declined by 14 percentage points. However, there is a marked difference in the age profiles of male and female inter-provincial employees, with females more likely to be younger.

The increasing age profile of inter-provincial employees was reflected in a changing marital profile. The share of inter-provincial employees who were married or living common-law increased from 38% in 2004 to 48% in 2009.

Residents of two neighbouring provinces, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, comprised large shares of the inter-provincial workforce in Alberta, accounting for almost 59% of this workforce in 2004. However, following large in-flows of workers from other provinces and territories, this proportion declined to 43% by 2008. In fact, in spite of the distance, the number of inter-provincial employees from the Atlantic Provinces increased almost three-fold between 2004 and 2008. By 2008, Atlantic Canadians comprised over 26% of inter-provincial employees in Alberta.

Within industries, inter-provincial employment accounted for about 9% to 14% of employment in each of the following: construction; oil and gas extraction; agriculture, fishing and forestry; mining; and accommodation and food services. When measured in terms of T4 earnings, inter-provincial employees accounted for 10% of T4 earnings paid in Alberta’s construction industry in 2008 but for less than 6% of T4 earnings paid in the province's other industries that year.

Across industries, there were large differences in the distributions of male and female inter-provincial employees. About one-half of male inter-provincial employees in Alberta were employed in construction and oil and gas extraction, while about one-third of female inter-provincial employees were employed in accommodation and food services and retail trade.

Employment patterns of inter-provincial employees vary along a number of dimensions. A significant portion of inter-provincial employees in Alberta are employed in the province on a part-year basis. Indeed, over much of the reference period, almost two-thirds of inter-provincial employees received T4 earnings from Alberta and from another province or territory. There is a strong correlation with age as inter-provincial employees in older age groups were more likely than others to work exclusively in Alberta. The share of inter-provincial employees receiving T4 earnings only from Alberta was highest among those from Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The distinction between inter-provincial employees who are employed exclusively in Alberta and those also working in other provinces or territories is important when considering the distribution of T4 earnings received in Alberta. The median earnings received in Alberta in 2009 by all inter-provincial employees were $16,347. This is less than half of the median earnings received by Alberta resident employees ($40,610). However, median Alberta earnings among inter-provincial employees who worked only in Alberta (at $33,035) are more comparable. Median earnings of those who worked in Alberta and elsewhere were $9,260.

Among male inter-provincial employees with T4 earnings only from Alberta, median earnings of those employed in oil, gas extraction and support activities were almost $60,000, while one-in-four of these workers earned $96,000 or more.

The prospects for earning higher wages and salaries are no doubt an important consideration in decisions to work inter-provincially. Among men aged 35 to 49, median earnings since becoming inter-provincial employees were approximately 38%, or $13,200, higher than their annual earnings in the years prior to their becoming inter-provincial employees. Men from the Atlantic Provinces saw the largest earnings gains by becoming inter-provincial employees (79%). As for women aged 35 to 49, their earnings increased by over 30% as they became inter-provincial employees in 2007 or 2008.

Earnings from Alberta have a considerable impact on family total earnings of inter-provincial employees. On average, married and common-law inter-provincial employees contributed 52% of total family earnings with their T4 earnings from Alberta in 2009. For nearly 31% of inter-provincial employees, T4 earnings from Alberta accounted for more than 75% of total family earnings.

Of the individuals first observed in inter-provincial employment in 2005, about one in four became Alberta residents during the next five years. Inter-provincial employees who were younger, single, and from Atlantic Canada were among those most likely to subsequently move to Alberta. Of the inter-provincial employees who did not subsequently move to Alberta, about one-half worked in Alberta during only one year, 21% did so during two years, and nearly 27% did so for three or more years.

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