British Columbia's economy is expected to get a lift over the next several years from an influx of new residents, helping fill job vacancies and spurring demand for housing.
Tuesday's provincial budget forecasts a net gain of 46,600 people moving to B.C. in 2015, and a steady flow of new residents for years to come.
This year's population growth will be composed of 36,600 individuals from abroad and 10,000 people from other provinces, according to projections in budget documents.
In 2016, the total net inflow should reach 50,800 new residents, followed by roughly 52,200 annually for several more years, B.C.'s Ministry of Finance said.
The predicted annual growth marks an increase from 2012 and 2013. B.C. had a total net gain of 26,749 people in 2012 and an influx of 33,625 in 2013. In the first nine months of last year, the net gain was 44,521 people from other countries and other provinces.
The Economic Forecast Council of British Columbia said population growth is important to support the province's need for skilled trades and also for bolstering the housing market.
B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong consults with the council, made up of 14 Canadian economists, as part of his budget preparations.
"B.C.'s skills-training initiatives and interprovincial and international migration were identified as critical components to the ongoing success of the province's resource industries and overall economy," according to the summary of the council's views contained in budget papers.
Most council members expect B.C.'s housing market to cool off, with a couple of economists saying that a "soft landing" has occurred in real estate already.
Greater Vancouver is the province's most expensive housing region, with prices averaging $812,653 last year for detached homes, condos and townhouses.
That average price rose 5.8 per cent from $767,765 in 2013, the B.C. Real Estate Association said.
Low interest rates have helped fuel Greater Vancouver's real estate market to record-high prices, but there is uncertainty about how long the housing rally might last.
"Several members noted that household debt levels in the province remain an issue and that British Columbians may be more sensitive than other Canadians to eventual interest-rate increases due to comparatively larger mortgages in the province," said the budget summary of the council's views.
The council is forecasting that the province's gross domestic product will improve by 2.6 per cent this year, higher than the government's estimate of 2.3 per cent.
Bryan Yu, senior economist at Central 1 Credit Union, said in an interview that gains in interprovincial migration will aid B.C.'s housing market in general, though there could be lower demand for recreational properties from out-of-province buyers.
"There will be fewer people leaving B.C. for Alberta," he said.
Mr. Yu noted that with the trend switching to B.C. gaining more people from other provinces rather than losing them, that helps keep demand high in Metro Vancouver's property market in particular. "When you add more people every year, it creates more density and puts pressure on the land base," he said.