April 2020 Economic Report Card

This is the first snapshot since the sudden economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the numbers reflect it.

For a third consecutive month, employment is down sharply and unemployment is up in the Greater Regina Area after a stellar 2019. Despite this, construction activity bounced back in the first 2 month of 2020 with healthy gains in housing starts and building permits after a soft 2019.

For additional commentary, read EDR’s blog post on March economic numbers.

  • Total employment in the Greater Regina Area was down -3.7% or -5,267 positions in January to March 2020 over the same period in 2019. These losses occurred entirely in full-time positions. Part-time employment advanced slightly by 300 positions. At the provincial level, year-to-date employment declined by 4,103 or -0.7%. The March Labour Force Survey results reflect labour market conditions during the reference week of March 15 to 21. Although by then a sequence of government interventions related to COVID-19, including the closure of non-essential businesses, travel restrictions, and measures directing Canadians to maintain social distancing, had been put in place, the job losses are expected to continue beyond the reference week and are likely to be more fully reflected in April labour force survey data.
  • Year-to-date employment in March 2020 was up over the same period in 2019 in Finance, insurance, real estate and leasing (1,900), Professional, scientific and technical services (1,900), Business, building and other support services (567), Information, culture and recreation (467), Other services (967), and Public administration (333).
  • Year-to-date employment in March 2020 was down in Agriculture (-733), Resource Extraction (-67), Utilities (-833), Manufacturing (-67), Wholesale and Retail Trade (-1967), Transportation and warehousing (-1100), Educational services (-2400), Health care and social assistance (-867), and Accommodation and food services (-1267).
  • Despite strong housing starts and residential building permit data, year-to-date March 2020 construction employment is down by 2,200 positions from the same period in 2019.
  • The average year-to-date unemployment rate advanced from 4.7% in March 2019 to 6.7% in March 2020. Year-to-date, the number of unemployed is up 2,767 in March 2020 from in March 2019. With the number of those of labour force age but not in the labour force increasing by 6,500, it is likely that the Regina Area is experiencing something of a “discouraged worker effect” where workers have withdrawn from actively seeking employment until prospects improve. As such, both the number of unemployed and the unemployment rate could be understated.
  • February 2020, total year-to-date housing starts are up by 54 units or 67.5%. Year-to-date increases were observed in singles (15 units or 41.7%), row (12 units or 85.7%), and apartment and other types (31 units or 129.2%). Year-to-date declines were noted in semi-detached (-4 units or -66.7%).
  • February 2020 year-to-date building permits are up 83.6% over the same period in 2019. Sub sectors that posted increases were: industrial (967.1%), commercial (253.3%), and institutional and governmental (242.5%). During the same time period declines were limited to residential permits (-4.5%).
  • The average year-to-date Housing Price Index Benchmark Price is down from $266,200   in February 2019 to $249,800 in February 2020.
  • In three dramatic rate cuts on March 4, March 13, and March 27, the Bank of Canada cut its benchmark interest rate to 0.25%. The central bank already cut its rate to 1.25% at a previously scheduled meeting on March 4 to help counteract the impact of the coronavirus. The unscheduled rate decisions on March 13 and 27 shaved a further percentage point from the rate as a proactive measure to boost the economy amid COVID-19 fears.
  • 2019 Regina Census Metropolitan Area population was up 1.9% over 2018 to 261,684 on the strength of international and intra-provincial migration. The release of 2020 data is expected in February/March 2021.
  • The Conference Board of Canada forecasts Regina’s economy to post a 1.9% real GDP gain in 2020, following a 1.6% increase in 2019.