Environmental Scan - Saskatchewan

Economic conditions

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Economic Conditions

Saskatchewan's economy was upended by the global pandemic in 2020. GDP fell roughly in line with the Canadian average, bolstered somewhat by high agricultural exports. At the same time, crude oil plummeted in value.

Conditions generally improved in 2021 and oil prices rebounded. The province's real GDP increased 2.7% to $79.4B, with gains in both the goods-producing (+0.8%) and services-producing sectors (+4.7%). However, Saskatchewan's real GDP is still down -2.5% from 2019, pre-pandemic.

Graphic: GDP forecasts for Canada: 3-year average annual growth rates, 2021-2023

Data table:

Region Growth rate, 2021-2023
Canada 3.9%
Yukon 6.7%
Northwest Territories 4.1%
Nunavut 5.5%
British Columbia 3.7%
Alberta 5.1%
Saskatchewan 4.1%
Manitoba 3.5%
Ontario 3.8%
Québec 3.7%
Newfoundland and Labrador 2.8%
New Brunswick 2.7%
Prince Edward Island 3.9%
Nova Scotia 2.9%


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Despite the pandemic and the resulting slowdown in world trade, the value of Saskatchewan exports increased by 2.2% in 2020, making it the only province to register positive growth that year. In 2021, the value of exports grew a further 22.8%, to $37.2B.

Saskatchewan's top exports by value in 2021 were crude oil, potash fertilizers, canola seed, and wheat, in that order. Crude oil moved from the third position to the first between 2020 and 2021 due to a rise in prices. The United States' share of provincial exports increased significantly, from 43.3% in 2020 to 53.4% in 2021. The country is the only foreign destination for Saskatchewan's crude oil.

Graphic: Saskatchewan's top 10 export markets. Saskatchewan exported $37.2 billion worth of goods to 165 countries in 2021.

Data table:

Country % share of exports
United States 53.4%
China 11.2%
Japan 3.7%
Brazil 3.3%
Mexico 2.7%
Indonesia 2.5%
United Arab Emirates 1.7%
India 1.6%
Algeria 1.5%
Bangladesh 1.5%
Others 17.0%

Labour market conditions

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Labour Market Conditions

Saskatchewan's unemployment rate stood at 6.5% in 2021, tied for third lowest rate in the country and well below the national figure of 7.5%. Still, other than 2020, this was Saskatchewan's highest annual unemployment rate dating back to 1996.

Conditions picked up in 2021, but a severe drought and resurgent pandemic tempered labour market improvements. Annual employment in Saskatchewan was 2.2% below 2019 levels, the largest gap of any province. Nationally, employment was 0.6% below 2019.


  • 2021 Unemployment rate: 6.5%; +0.9 percentage points over 2019
  • 2021 Employment rate: 62.7%; -1.9 percentage points over 2019
  • 2021 Participation rate: 67.1%; -1.3 percentage points over 2019

Industry trends

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Industry Trends

  • Employment in agriculture continued its long decline, with 2021 the lowest year on record – eclipsing the previous low set in 2020. While crop production was outstanding in 2020, the worst drought in Saskatchewan in nearly 30 years led to a drastic decline in agricultural output in 2021.
  • In 2021, manufacturing was the only goods-producing industry to show job growth compared to 2019, due in part to ongoing investments in the province's food manufacturing subsector. Three new canola crush plants were announced in 2021, including two in Regina and one in Northgate. An expansion to Richardson International's Yorkton facility is also underway.
  • The resource extraction industry (forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas) is key to Saskatchewan's economy, typically accounting for over 25% of GDP. Employment is comparatively lower, making up just 3.5% of work in the province in 2021. While industry GDP surged in 2021 on higher commodity prices, employment was little changed on the year.

Graphic: Employment gains and losses, 2019 to 2021

Data table:

Industry Change in employment from 2019 to 2021
Wholesale and retail trade +8,100
Health care and social assistance +7,100
Public administration +4,400
Manufacturing +2,200
Educational services +1,400
Professional, scientific and technical services +1,000
Business, building and other support services 0
Utilities -200
Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing -1,100
Other services (except public administration) -1,300
Transportation and warehousing -2,500
Construction -2,600
Forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas -3,400
Information, culture and recreation -4,100
Accommodation and food services -9,900
Agriculture -12,000

Regional economic conditions

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Regional Economic Conditions

  • In 2021, all five Saskatchewan regions still registered employment declines from 2019, with the province's most populous region, Saskatoon-Biggar, closest to a full recovery. The least populous, Yorkton-Melville, lost further ground in 2021, and was the only region to post losses in both goods-producing and services-producing industries compared to 2019.
  • Employment in Prince Albert & Northern trended relatively well between 2019 and 2021, posting gains in services-producing industries, primarily healthcare and social assistance.
  • Looking ahead, Saskatoon-Biggar will benefit from the further investment of $7.5 billion into BHP's Jansen potash mine, scheduled for completion in 2027. Regina-Moose Mountain will receive a boost from the planned construction of canola crushing plants in the area. Early in 2022, Federated Cooperatives Limited announced a $2 billion investment in the construction of an Integrated Agriculture Complex in Regina, which will include renewable diesel and canola crush facilities.

Graphic: Employment growth, 2019 to 2021

Data table:

Economic Region Employment growth from 2019 to 2021
Saskatoon-Biggar -0.3%
Prince Albert and Northern -0.9%
Saskatchewan -2.2%
Swift Current-Moose Jaw -2.5%
Regina-Moose Mountain -3.0%
Yorkton-Melville -11.3%


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At just 0.05%, population growth in Saskatchewan was particularly slow for the year ending June 2021. While Saskatchewan's natural population increase (births - deaths) remains positive, net provincial out-migration continued for the eighth consecutive year. Compounding the problem, international immigration was at its lowest level since 2010, due to pandemic effects seen Canada-wide.

Saskatchewan will age over the next 20 years, despite a large and younger Indigenous population.

Graphic: Inter-provincial migration from 2016/17 to 2020/21, where 60,107 people migrated into Saskatchewan and 104,605 people left the province during this period

Graphic: Population estimates

  • 2020 Saskatchewan population: 1,179,300
  • 2040 population projection: 1,414,100

Data table:

Age group % share of population, 2020 % share of population, 2040
65+ years 16% 19%
55-64 years 13% 12%
25-54 years 39% 39%
15-24 years 12% 13%
0-14 years 20% 17%

Indigenous Peoples and Immigrants

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Indigenous Peoples

In 2021, Indigenous people represented 12% of Saskatchewan's working-age population (15 years and up). This was second only to Manitoba as a provincial share. The unemployment rate for Saskatchewan's off-reserve Indigenous population was 12.6%, more than double that of the non-Indigenous population. This was the third highest Indigenous unemployment rate among provinces, and well above the national rate of 11.6%. A number of factors limit opportunities for Indigenous workers, including discrimination, socio-economic inequality, and lesser access to education and training.

Graphic: Unemployment and participation rates (2021)

Data table:

Identity Unemployment rate Participation rate
Indigenous 12.6% 64.6%
Non-Indigenous 6.0% 67.1%


In 2021, immigrants made up 14.5% of Saskatchewan's population above the age of 15 years old. This is low when compared to 33% in BC, 26% in Alberta, and 23% in Manitoba. As immigrants put down roots, their attachment to the labour market improves. In Saskatchewan in 2021, the unemployment rate for immigrants who had landed in Canada within the past five years was 7.6%, compared with 6.3% for those born in Canada. The unemployment rate was lower for landed immigrants who had been in the country for longer than five years.

Graphic: Landed immigrant unemployment rates by time lived in Saskatchewan (2021)

Data table:

Time lived Unemployment rate
0-5 years 7.6%
5-10 years 7.0%
10+ years 7.1%

Youth and Older Workers

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Employment opportunities for workers age 15-24 in Saskatchewan were significantly hampered by the pandemic. While youth unemployment was little changed from 2016 to 2019, the unemployment rate shot up from 11.5% in 2019 to 17.6% in 2020, before falling back to 11.5% in 2021. By comparison, the rate for workers 25 and older reached only 6.9% in 2020, and dropped to 5.7% in 2021. Employment stability for workers 15-24 is closely tied to the success of the retail and food services industries, which together employed 42% of young workers in 2021.

Graphic: Unemployment rates (2021)

Data table:

Age group Unemployment rate
15-19 years 14.6%
20-24 years 9.4%
25-29 years 6.5%
15+ average 6.5%

Older Workers

Increased lifespans have allowed older workers (aged 55 years and over) to stay in the labour force longer. From 2019 to 2020, the unemployment rate for older workers in Saskatchewan increased by 2.4 percentage points, roughly the same as the increase posted by the prime working age group of 25-54 years. In 2021 the unemployment rate for older workers was 6.2%, slightly lower than that of the general population. At 39.4%, Saskatchewan's labour force participation rate for older workers was second among provinces and 2.1 percentage points above the national average (37.3%).

Graphic: Unemployment rates (2021)

Data table:

Age group Unemployment rate
55-59 years 5.2%
60-64 years 7.5%
65+ years 6.1%
15+ average 6.5%

BIPOC and People with Disabilities

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Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) individuals make up 27.2% of the population in Saskatchewan, similar to the national average (27.1%). Indigenous people are the largest group of racialized Canadians in the province, representing 16.3% of the total population — over three times the national average (4.9%). Filipino residents are the second most prevalent racialized ethnic group in the province representing 3.0% of Saskatchewan's total population, followed by South Asians (2.8%).

Graphic: Proportion of total population (2016 Census)

Data table:

Ethnic group Saskatchewan Canada
Indigenous 16.3% 4.9%
Filipino 3.0% 2.3%

People with Disabilities

The concept of disability has evolved over the past decades, moving from a strictly medical model to a social one that notably includes cognitive and mental health-related impairments. According to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, just over 24% of Saskatchewan's population (aged 15 and over) self-identified as having some type of disability in 2017, slightly higher than the national average (22.3%). The employment rate among Saskatchewan residents with disabilities aged 25 to 64 was nearly 66%, considerably higher than the national average of 59.3%.

Graphic: Unemployment and employment rates (2017 Canadian Survey on Disability)

Data table:

Unemployment rate Employment rate
People with disabilities 6.6% 65.9%
People without disabilities 4.9% 82.3%

Prepared by: Labour Market Information (LMI) Directorate, Service Canada, Western Canada and Territories Region

For further information, please contact the LMI team

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