British Columbia Is Canada's Newest Economic Star Performer

  • Province has lowest unemployment rate in the country at 5.8%
  • Housing boom is fueling surge in consumer confidence, spending

British Columbia’s economy is on a tear.

Last month, Canada’s westernmost province added 13,000 jobs and its unemployment rate plunged to 5.8%, from 6.5 percent a month earlier, Statistics Canada reported Friday. For the first time on record dating back to 1976, the province has the lowest jobless rate in the country.

While the rest of the country struggles with slumping commodity prices and a failed manufacturing recovery, British Columbia is benefiting from a housing boom that’s fueling consumer confidence and spending, coupled with a revival of the lumber industry.

Here is a list of data that show how British Columbia is leading the country economically.

Growth Star

British Columbia is competing with Ontario as the country’s growth leader.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg see the province’s real GDP rising on average by 2.5 percent in 2015, 2016 and 2017. That is roughly in line with growth projected for Ontario. The last time British Columbia recorded the fastest growth in Canada was 2005. It has never led the country growth-wise in back-to-back years since at least 1961.

Broad Gains

The province is beating the rest of Canada in just about every sector employment-wise, but particularly in services such as wholesaling, retailing and of course housing. Retail-sales employment is up 9 percent over the past year, compared with 1.5 percent in the rest of the country. Wholesalers are increasing employment at almost six times the national pace. Even manufacturers prefer British Columbia, where factories are actually growing. Nationally, manufacturing employment has fallen over the past year.

Consumer Confidence

Erik Hertzberg/Bloomberg

British Columbia has by far the highest consumer confidence levels in the country. A gauge of confidence tracked by Nanos Research Group for Bloomberg News scored them at 66 versus a national average of 57.7.

This is spilling over into spending. Retailer proceeds in the province -- at C$6.13 billion in February -- exceeded Alberta’s for the first time since 2009.

Housing Prices

The province has the most expensive and fastest appreciating housing market. Housing prices in the province’s largest city of Vancouver are up 25.3% from a year earlier and home sales are the highest on record. The average price of a detached home sold in April was C$1.4 million.

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