Ma­jor projects cred­ited for B.C. growth

The Prince George Citizen - - Local - Beth LEIGHTON

VANCOUVER — A fi­nan­cial ser­vices or­ga­ni­za­tion in Bri­tish Columbia is fore­cast­ing mod­est but slower growth for the province through 2022.

Cen­tral 1 says eco­nomic growth in B.C. should re­main just above two per cent over the next 28 months.

Its re­port re­leased Thurs­day says the grow­ing econ­omy is supported by a strong labour mar­ket, healthy con­struc­tion in­dus­try and on­go­ing work on the Site C hy­dro­elec­tric project, liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas devel­op­ment in Kiti­mat and the twinning of the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line.

But Cen­tral 1 says global trade un­cer­tainty and a dip in new home con­struc­tion will be among fac­tors that dam­pen growth.

The fore­cast says eco­nomic growth in B.C. slipped from 2.4 per cent in 2018 to 2.2 per cent this year, but should rebound to 2.6 per cent by 2020 as ma­jor con­struc­tion projects pro­ceed.

Growth is expected to edge down to 2.1 per cent in 2021 and 2.2 per cent the following year, in part because Cen­tral 1 says re­cent hous­ing mar­ket skids mean fewer apart­ment starts, while a weaker forestry sec­tor and global trade con­cerns con­trib­ute to the slug­gish out­look.

Cen­tral 1 is a ser­vice provider for credit unions in B.C. and On­tario as well as other fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions across the coun­try

The re­port high­lights job growth in B.C. as one of the bright­est as­pects of the eco­nomic out­look, not­ing an­nual labour force employment growth is fore­cast to aver­age 2.7 per cent.

With the ex­cep­tion of re­source sec­tors such as forestry, “there aren’t many holes to poke in the cur­rent labour mar­ket pic­ture,” says the re­port, although it fore­casts employment growth will slip to near one per cent through 2022.

It blames the dip on dwin­dling jobs in the man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­struc­tion in­dus­tries over the next two years, but Cen­tral 1 econ­o­mists fore­cast ser­vice sec­tor employment in ar­eas such as tech­nol­ogy, tourism and health care should pick up some of the slack.

“Labour force par­tic­i­pa­tion rates are el­e­vated sug­gest­ing the tight mar­ket is at­tract­ing peo­ple into the work­force while oth­ers de­lay their po­ten­tial retirement,” the re­port says.

Bri­tish Columbia’s un­em­ploy­ment rate is track­ing at 4.6 per cent, which Cen­tral 1 says is a near his­toric low that has not been seen since just be­fore the fi­nan­cial cri­sis of 2008 and 2009.

Stronger eco­nomic con­di­tions com­pared with Al­berta, as well as on­go­ing de­mand for work­ers on ma­jor projects will con­tinue to fuel in­ter­provin­cial mi­gra­tion from about 3,400 peo­ple this year to 12,000 by 2020, Cen­tral 1 says.

Over­all, B.C.’s pop­u­la­tion will ex­pand by 1.2 per cent in 2019 says the re­port, cred­it­ing in­ter­na­tional im­mi­gra­tion as the main rea­son for pop­u­la­tion gains over the com­ing years.

“From 2019 through 2021, B.C. is fore­cast to grow by an aver­age of nearly 60,000 per­sons an­nu­ally pro­vid­ing a sig­nif­i­cant source of con­sumer and hous­ing de­mand,” it says.

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