Northern Economist 2.0

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Does Economic Performance Actually Matter in Northern Ontario?

In my last post, I made mention of the recent Conference Board of Canada Reports that presented current evidence and forecasts of economic activity for the cities of Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie.  The evidence suggested a rather sluggish economy though an upcoming webinar by the Conference Board argues that resource dependent communities such as those in northern Ontario are starting to rebound from the two-year downturn sparked by the decline in commodity prices.  This would certainly be the case in the more mining intensive northern Ontario communities.

However, based on the Conference Board Reports to date I think a more comparative analysis of some of the key indicators is useful particularly because of the story they seem to tell.  Along with Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins, the numbers are also presented for Ontario and Canada.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Economic News Around the North: August 15th Edition

We are in mid-August and the summer is drawing to a close.  The economic news has been pretty slow in northern Ontario.  Here are the stories of economic significance to northern Ontario over the last week or so.  They are mainly focused on the Conference Board Reports which were issued in late July and early August and that show the northern Ontario economy is not growing as fast as either Ontario or Canada.

Thunder Bay economy advances "sluggishly".  Tbnewswatch, August 9th, 2017.

Incidentally, Netnewsledger in Thunder Bay ran this story August 3rd (and was reported in my last northern Ontario economic news post.) I suppose narrative is everything.  According to the Conference Board Report in the above story, real GDP in Thunder Bay will rise 0.2 per cent in 2017 and 0.9 percent in 2018 following a 0.2 per cent increase in 2016.  Compare this to the Canadian economy which is expected to grow 2.3 per cent in 2017 and just under 2 percent in 2018.  Ontario is forecast to surge at 2.3 percent in 2017 but then scales back to 1.8 per cent in 2018.  Real GDP growth in Thunder Bay is forecast at below 1 per cent until 2021,  Yet, apparently life in Thunder Bay goes on with personal income per capita expected to grow at greater than 3 per cent from 2018 to 2021.  While the overall economy is not growing, having 30 percent of your employment in the broader public sector is lending a certain punch to average personal incomes.

Meanwhile in Sudbury, the Conference Board projects real GDP will grow at 1.2 percent in 2017 and 1.0 percent in 2018 but real GDP growth over the period 2018 to 2021 is also not expected to top 1 percent.  Yet, the narrative in Sudbury is a little different.

Sudbury to grow in 2017: Conference Board. Thesudburystar.com. August 4th, 2017.

In other Sudbury economic news:

Vale looking at layoffs in Sudbury. Thesudburystar.com. August 12th, 2017.

In terms of the size of Vale's economic footprint in Sudbury: "Vale operates five mines in Sudbury, as well as a mill, a smelter, a refinery and employs nearly 4,000 workers. It mines nickel, copper, cobalt, platinum group metals, gold and silver."

Timmins and the Sault also made their way into the Conference Board's Mid-Sized Cities Outlook and the report forecast real GDP in the Sault to grow 0.6 percent in 2017 and for Timmins to grow 1.4 percent in 2017.  Of the four cities covered in these Conference Board Reports it would appear that Timmins is doing the best with the manufacturing sector as well as the primary and utilities sectors driving growth.  Thunder Bay is forecast to grow the least. 

Timmins ready for economic growth says Conference Board of Canada. timminspress.com, July 27, 2017.

Sault growth behind that of Ontario, Canada. saultstar.com. July 28th, 2017.

So what about North Bay?  Well, no Conference Board Report for them.  They are neither a "big" northern CMA like Thunder Bay or Sudbury or a "Mid Size" city like Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins.  I'm sure that North Bay at least self-identifies as a Mid-Sized city and I wish to state that I consider North Bay one of the northern urban league of  five - the N5 as I sometimes like to refer to them.  

Still, here is an item of interest regarding the employment impact in northern Ontario - particularly North Bay -of an Electricity Trading Agreement entered into last fall with Quebec by the Ontario government.

Fedeli request leads to FAO probe on Ontario-Quebec Power deal. BayToday.ca. August 11th, 2017.

And another page in the inexorable march of retail change in the north:

Self-checkout threat to local jobs very real, labour warns. Nugget.ca, August 5th, 2017.


Enjoy the rest of the summer.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

North's CMAs Sluggish When it Comes to Building Permits

The June 2017 building permit numbers from Statistics Canada are out today and they show that the total value of building permits rose in six provinces in June, led by Quebec and Manitoba. Meanwhile, permits were up in 14 of 36 census metropolitan areas (CMAs), led by Toronto, MontrĂ©al and Winnipeg with Hamilton reporting the largest decline in June (-60.0%).

The year to year results (June 2016 to June 2017) are shown in the accompanying figure for Canada's CMAs.  All CMAs grew 24.3 percent. They range from a high of 172 percent for Halifax to a low of -81 percent for Moncton.  As for Thunder Bay and Sudbury, they both show a negative performance with -2.7 percent for Thunder Bay and -4 percent for Greater Sudbury.




This building permit report comes in the wake of Conference Board Reports showing that these two cities have sluggish economies. However, with respect to building permits in Ontario they are not doing as badly as Hamilton, Windsor, Peterborough or St. Catharines.  Another intriguing result is the Ottawa area where Ottawa/Gatineau shows annual growth of 13.7 percent but the Gatineau part is at -12.7 percent and the Ottawa part grew at 18.9 percent.