March 2019 Economic Report Card

This month we look at the economic indicators just released for January and February 2019.

The labour market improved dramatically…

In the first two months of 2019, the labour market improved dramatically with year-to-date employment growing in tandem with drops in both the number of unemployed and the unemployment rate. Despite this all other monthly indicators in declined in January 2019: with sharp drops in both housing starts and building permits.

  • Total employment in the Greater Regina Area was up 0.4% or 500 positions in January to February 2019 over the same period in 2018.  At the provincial level, year-to-date employment increased by 8,350 or 1.5%.
  • Year-to-date employment in February 2019 was up over the same period in 2018 in Agriculture (450), Resource Extraction (100), Utilities (250), Transportation and warehousing (2,250), Educational services (2,350), Health care and social assistance (1,050), Accommodation and food services (700), and Other services (450).
  • Year-to-date employment in February 2019 was down in Manufacturing (-1100), Wholesale and Retail Trade (-700), Finance, insurance, real estate and leasing (-1600), Professional, scientific and technical services (-1350), Business, building and other support services (-700), Information, culture and recreation (-550), and Public administration (-850).
  • After a weak performance in 2017, construction employment bounced back in 2018 and the first month of 2019. However, year-to-date February construction employment is down by 100 positions from the same period in 2018. A year-over-year drop of 600 positions occurred in February 2019 likely due to unusually cold weather.
  • The average year-to-date unemployment rate dropped from 4.8% to 4.7% in February 2019. Year-to-date, the number of unemployed is down 400 in February 2019 from February 2018.  Although the first 2 months of 2019 look positive, drops in the participation rate (those working and seeking work expressed as a percentage of the population aged 15 years and over) and the employment rate (number of employed persons expressed as a percentage of the population 15 years of age and over) could be problematic.
  • January 2019, total year-to-date housing starts are down by -251 units or -82.6%. Year-to-date declines were noted in singles (-14 units or -43.8%), row (-5 units or -31.3%), and apartment and other types (-232 units or -92.8%). Semi-detached units, at 6 units, were level with 2018 activity.
  • February 2019 year-to-date building permits are down -47.0% over the same period in 2017.  Declines were widespread and occurred across all sub-sectors: Residential (-33.2%), Industrial (-72.7%), Commercial (-66.1%), and Institutional and governmental (-84.0%).
  • The average year-to-date Housing Price Index Benchmark Price is down from $277,100 in February 2018 to $264,700 in February 2019.
  • With the pace of GDP growth at the national level suggesting that the economy is operating at close to full capacity, the Bank of Canada raised the overnight rate to 1.75% on October 24, up from 1.5%. This represents the highest rate since December 2008. However, the Bank of Canada held the rate at this level in March 2019 citing uncertainty stemming from a sudden and unexpected deceleration in GDP growth in the final quarter of 2018.
  • 2017 Regina Census Metropolitan Area population was up 2.4% over 2016 to 253,220 on the strength of international and intra-provincial migration. This can be expected to continue through 2018 with continued, employment growth spurring further in-migration. The 2018 population estimate will be released on March 28, 2019
  • The Conference Board of Canada forecasts Regina’s economy to post a 2.1% real GDP gain in 2019, following a 2.2% increase in 2018.