By Shaadie Musleh

Regina’s economic report card for April is out, and considering the circumstances, there aren’t a lot of surprises. Given the timing of the measures put in place to combat COVID-19, we expected the economic impact to become more apparent in April – and it has. According to the Conference Board of Canada, Regina’s economy contracted by 4.6% from April of last year. Regina’s unemployment rate went from 4.6% to 8.7% over that same time period.

There’s no question that those aren’t easy numbers to swallow. The pandemic has taken a toll on Regina businesses and workers alike. While there are plenty of resources out there to help us survive this downturn, the best solution will be for businesses to restart and for our economy to recover. I think there’s plenty to be hopeful for on both fronts.

Regina businesses have proven to be remarkably resilient over this time, and with stage 3 of the Re-open Saskatchewan Plan just around the corner, more businesses will have the opportunity to re-open their doors.

Heading into the pandemic, and despite a few nagging issues, Regina’s economy had built some positive momentum. Entrepreneurship was growing, technology companies were growing, and Regina continues to be one of the youngest cities in the country. Regina’s 2019 unemployment rate, at 5.1%, had decreased from 5.9% in 2018. That’s higher than the 3.7% we saw in 2013 and 2014 – but we were moving in the right direction.

In terms of economic recovery, the Conference Board is suggesting bluer skies ahead, forecasting our economy to grow 5.4% in 2021, and 3.3%/year on average from 2021-24. It may be some time before unemployment rates return to their pre-COVID levels, but as the economy recovers, more job opportunities will return.

Beyond the raw numbers, there are other reasons to be optimistic about Regina’s economic prospects. Regina is poised not just for recovery, but for growth – even in a time of uncertainty. When it’s formally announced, Regina’s recovery and growth plan will look at accelerating the city’s technology industry, promoting the convention and trade show sector, retaining talent in new marketplaces and advancing a food hub strategy for the greater Regina area. It’s a plan that was in development well before COVID, and it makes even more sense now.

These aren’t easy times, but difficult times never last forever, and Regina has a bright future on the horizon.