This month we look at the economic indicators just released for February and March 2019.
The labour market improved dramatically…
In the first three months of 2019, the labour market improved dramatically with year-to-date employment growing in sync with drops in both the number of unemployed and the unemployment rate. Despite this turnaround, all other monthly indicators declined in February 2019. The construction sector was particularly soft with sharp drops in both housing starts and building permits.
- Total employment in the Greater Regina Area was up 0.5% or 700 positions in January to March 2019 over the same period in 2018. At the provincial level, year-to-date employment increased by 8,833 or 1.6%.
- Year-to-date employment in March 2019 was up over the same period in 2018 in Agriculture (533), Resource Extraction (267), Utilities (433), Transportation and warehousing (2,033), Educational services (2,000), Health care and social assistance (833), Accommodation and food services (800), and Other services (567).
- Year-to-date employment in March 2019 was down in Manufacturing (-933), Wholesale and Retail Trade (-767), Finance, insurance, real estate and leasing (-1367), Professional, scientific and technical services (-1200), Business, building and other support services (-733), Information, culture and recreation (-633), and Public administration (-200).
- After a weak performance in 2017, construction employment bounced back in 2018 and through January 2019. However, year-to-date March construction employment is down by almost by 800 positions from the same period in 2018 with a year over year drop of 600 positions in February 2019 likely due to unusually cold weather.
- The average year-to-date unemployment rate dropped from 5% to 4.7% in March 2019. Year-to-date, the number of unemployed is down 367 in March 2019 from March 2018. Despite growing employment numbers and declining number of unemployed, the labour market picture for the region is not completely positive. Drops in the participation rate (those working and seeking work expressed as a percentage of the population aged 15 years and over), the employment rate (number of employed persons expressed as a percentage of the population 15 years of age and over), and an increase in the number of those of working age not in the labour force are problematic.
- February 2019, total year-to-date housing starts are down by -364 units or -82.0%. All categories of starts saw year-to-date declines: Singles (-28 units or -43.8%), semi-detached (-8 units or -57.1%), row (-24 units or -63.2%), and apartment and other types (-304 units or -92.7%).
- February 2019 year-to-date building permits are down -35.5% over the same period in 2018. Declines were widespread and occurred across all sub-sectors: Residential (-29.4%), industrial (-95.8%), commercial (-15.5%), and institutional and governmental (-77.1%).
- The average year-to-date Housing Price Index Benchmark Price is down from $277,067 in March 2018 to $264,500 in March 2019.
- In 2018, 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 by 0.25% to 1.75% on October 24, 2018, 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. The next rate announcement is April 24, 2019.
- 2018 Regina Census Metropolitan Area population was up 2.3% over 2017 to 257,337 on the strength of international and intra-provincial migration. This can be expected to continue through 2019 with continued employment growth spurring further in-migration.
- 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.