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Demography in Canada and the Swine Flu Pandemic

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Alex Carrick

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Alex Carrick is Chief Economist for Reed Construction Data. He specializes in economic forecasting and statistical services.

Economists

In my previous blog entry, I reviewed many of the regional economic developments in Canada. Today, let’s look at the latest demographic report from Statistics Canada. Quite often, demographic shifts are a consequence of what has been happening on the economic front. Here are some of the more significant developments for the nation and the regions as reported by Statistics Canada for the fourth-quarter of 2008.

In my previous blog entry, I reviewed many of the regional economic developments in Canada. Today, let/'s look at the latest demographic report from Statistics Canada. Quite often, demographic shifts are a consequence of what has been happening on the economic front. Here are some of the more significant developments for the nation and the regions as reported by Statistics Canada for the fourth-quarter of 2008.

Population Growth Plays a Key Role in the Economy

As of January 1, 2009 the population of the country stood at 33.5 million. In the fourth-quarter of last year, there were population gains in every province and territory except Prince Edward Island and the Northwest Territories. This is a much better distribution of population increase than is normal. Specifically, the Atlantic Region and Québec are retaining people, where they used to suffer delcines on a regular basis. This is important for several reasons.

Population growth is an important driver of economic activity and construction in particular. It accounts for many of the pressures on institutional facilities. Also, it is a key factor behind gains in consumer spending. There are major countries around the world (e.g., Japan and Russia) where the population is declining. This has implications for those called upon to support the older generation as it retires (i.e., the dependency ratio). It also inhibits growth prospects simply due to the fact that there will be fewer people to spend.

Alberta still a Magnet

In the fourth quarter of last year, Alberta/'s population still continued to grow the fastest of any region in Canada (i.e., three times faster than any other province). This may have been a delayed reaction to the change in the local economy, with the bad news slow to disseminate. However, even though there have been significant job losses in Alberta, the unemployment rate (5.8%) is still among the lowest in the country, as of March 2009. Only Saskatchewan (4.7%) and Manitoba (5.1%) have lower jobless percentages.

Ontario Less Appealing for Immigrants

For the first time in its history, Ontario has become a “have-not” province under the terms of Ottawa/'s transfer obligations. The province/'s struggles are showing up in many ways. Its unemployment rate (8.7%) is higher than the national average (8.0%) and its year-over-year employment drop (-2.0%) is steeper than nation-wide (-1.5%). Immigrant arrivals in Canada used to flock to Ontario. Now they are often choosing other entry stations. Ontario has also been a net loser with respect to interprovincial migration of late.

New Brunswick/'s Gains and Quebec/'s Strong Birth Rate

Two other provinces deserve mention. New Brunswick had a net increase in both its net international and net interprovincial migrations in the fourth quarter. In fact, that province/'s net migration was at the highest level for a fourth quarter since 1975. And Québec is having notable success with its birth rate. This has been stimulated by a range of government programs having to do with day care, parental leave and tax breaks. Births were up nearly 4% in the latest quarter versus fourth-quarter 2007, leading all provinces.

The Swine Flu Pandemic

Finally, a few comments on the worrying development that is the onslaught of swine flu, recently renamed influenza A (H1N1). Canada has been through this before, with the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in 2003. Vancouver (to some degree) and Toronto (to a major degree) were the two cities most affected.

Travelers from Toronto were prohibited by some countries for a while and ventures to the city by out-of-towners were sharply curtailed. Cross borer traffic from the United States slowed to a trickle. Hotels stood empty and entertainment districts went black. Live theatre festivals at Niagara-on-the-Lake and Stratford experienced attendance declines that required years of recovery time.

Hospitals were overloaded with extra sanitary precautions and medical staff were overburdened with responsibilities. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) also reared up at around the same time. The dot-com collapse and 9/11 had occurred relatively shortly before, as well.

It seems that such compounding difficulties always crop up at the most disadvantageous moments. A possible swine flu pandemic at this fragile time for the world economy is most unfortunate. Of course, for those that have been infected by the virus, the concerns have been of a more personal nature.

Alex Carrick

Find Canadian construction-related economic articles in Canadian Construction Market News and in the Economic Outlook section of Daily Commercial News. Mr. Carrick also has a lifestyle blog that can be reached by clicking here.

by Alex Carrick

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