EDMONTON - New numbers show Alberta's bottom line is on track to look better this fiscal year, but the province remains mired in a deep ditch of red ink.

Finance Minister Travis Toews says this year's deficit is projected to be $7.8 billion, less than half of the $18.2 billion projected in the 2021-22 budget in February.

Taxpayer-supported debt is projected to reach nearly $106 billion by next March, with debt interest payments pegged at $2.6 billion.

The government credits the turnaround to an ongoing economic recovery from COVID-19 and to a rebound in the energy sector.

West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark price for oil, was expected to fetch US$46 a barrel in the budget, but has been rising sharply and is expected to average more than US$65 a barrel this year.

The government says there has been a worldwide resurgence in oil demand along with price restraint by the oil cartel OPEC.