Population growth is as important to a city as blood flow is to a person. If your population is not growing you’re probably on life support
Halifax grew at below half the normal pace last year….the slowest rate among our benchmark cities. So why are we glowing slower? The bottom line is that we are seeing too many of our people….mainly our young people moving to other provinces. Even St. John’s which has one of the hottest economies of any city in Canada can’t hold it’s young people. Population growth is driven by immigrants and migrants from elsewhere in Nova Scotia in about equal measure. More immigrants are staying…in Halifax although we still have a way to go to catch up with most of our benchmark cities. Only St. Johns has a lower retention rate. Immigrants stay for the same reason new grads stay…opportunity.
Reasons for youth outmigration are pretty simple…high youth unemployment rates. The unemployment rate for people under 25…most new graduates….is more than 3 times the unemployment rate for those over 25. Clearly if people are not finding that important first job….they hang around for a while and then take off.
63% or 2/3rds of Nova Scotia’s post secondary students are in Halifax. University enrolments grew at twice the national pace in 2011
Particularly international students. These have been increasing dramatically over the past number of years…more than doubling since 2008. However we retain very few of them. However surveys tell us that many want to stay…Indeed many stay in Canada…just not here.
However…it’s not all bad. Employment growth in Halifax is more than double the population growth the best performance among eastern Canadian benchmark cities.
On another positive note, we are seeing a steady improvement in workplace safety in Nova Scotia. Improvements in workplace safety contribute directly to improvements in productivity both at the firm level and for all of Nova Scotia. Improvements in workplace safety may be our best and easiest path to productivity gains. We’ve been able to include these numbers in the Halifax Index for the first time thanks to the cooperation of the Workers Compensation Board of Nova Scotia.
Halifax’s economy toped 18 billion last year. More than half of the GDP of Nova Scotia. We did well compared to most of our benchmark cities. We didn’t compete with Canada’s boom cities, which are all in the west with the steady exception of St. John’s. Growth in GDP is expected to pick up this year and next.
We survey business confidence twice a year using our friends at CRA. This spring we’ve noticed a significant drop. Most distressing is the fact that young business are loosing faith in the economy quite rapidly. They were once the strength of the survey. Clearly our newest business leaders are most susceptible to the ups and downs of attitudes about the economy. They were over the moon when the Shipyard announce. Now…just two years later they are less certain about the future. The index indicates that business are optimistic just not as optimistic as they used to be. I can’t think of a better demonstration of the impacts of attitudes on an economy.
The Halifax gateway….is holding its own. A good year for air travel and air cargo. Container movements were up last year…probably an indication of recovering North American and European economies
We are seeing a big shift in the housing supply….from single family units to apartments. This makes a lot a sense given the shift in demand as the population ages, and a higher proportion of students are international or from other provinces.
When people think about quality of place and quality of life, personal safety tops the list of considerations. Things go dramatically better last year in Halifax with a 13% fall in the crime severity index. Halifax has fallen from the top of the list to the middle of the pack in crime …not bad in one year.
Violent crime was down by more than 20% one of the biggest drops in the country. While demographics are having a impact on crime everywhere, improved policing approaches in Halifax account for most of the improvement.
Not only is employment up in Halifax…so is average income. Indeed the average income in Halifax jumped by more than 3% which provide impressive gains in real income…about time. This is particularly impressive give the ratcheting down of federal employment which is now at it’s lowest level since before the second world war… That’s 65 years for those of you that are paying close attention.
With a gain of 700 jobs last year…the arts and culture sector is approaching the 10000 person mark. Only Quebec City, among our benchmark cities employs more people in the arts. Better still, the growth in wages has been more than double the average for all occupations.
Halifax achieves top marks on sustainability. We use public transit more than any benchmark city and only residents in Victoria walk to work more. Having no hills and being the size of postage stamp compared with Halifax probably helps their numbers.
NEED TO FIX CHART FOR PRESENTATION
Halifax’s housing market responds pretty crisply to demand….and right now the demand is for apartments in the regional century… Over a three year stretch, apartment starts in the regional center are more than 4 and a half times the level in suburban areas. The next census…if we have one….should show a big jump in regional centre population. This is consistent with the dumb-bell effect of more demand by young professionals and university students and more baby boomers down-sizing.
2014 Halifax Index Presentation
WHAT IS THE HALIFAX INDEX?
•The Halifax Index measures Halifax’s
progress toward broad economic
•It benchmarks Halifax’s progress against
five Canadian cities
Components of Economic
MUNICIPAL FINANCES IN GREAT
rating remains at
AA- with a stable
confidence in the
• We are getting old too fast
• We don’t treat our future workforce well
• We can turn this around.
• The economy is growing, but the drivers
• We get great marks on our quality of
place, sustainability and city finances.
• We are cautiously positive about our
• Economic growth will jump significantly
this year and next.
• We’ve got some things to work on….
• Retain more people.
• Attitudes need to shift
• Change could begin here.