Saskatoon will lead the country's economic growth this year, along with the other resource-rich cities of Calgary, Edmonton and Regina.
The Conference Board of Canada's annual metropolitan outlook of 27 cities also sees a deepening economic divide between the West and the rest. Growth in factory-heavy central Canada will be tepid and St. John's, which had led the country's growth in the prior two years, will tumble to the bottom of its economic growth ranking.
For this year, Saskatoon will tally the strongest expansion, pegged at 4 per cent. The country as a whole is seen growing a modest 2.4 per cent in the year.
Despite global economic turmoil, “high prices for agricultural products, minerals and oil are likely to continue,” said Mario Lefebvre, director of the board’s centre for municipal studies. “Canada’s prairie cities will reap the benefits of this global demand for commodities.”
Saskatoon’s growth this year, underpinned by a resource boom in the province, is actually a slowdown from an estimated 4.6-per-cent expansion last year. Still, the city’s jobless rate of 5.4 per cent is well below the national average, and the jobs boom has meant international migration to Saskatchewan in the third quarter of 2011 hit its highest level since 1971.
Calgary, meantime, is seen expanding 3.6 per cent this year. In 2013, the city is forecast to lead all Canadian cities with growth of 4.9 per cent.
In Edmonton, job growth of nearly 40,000 new positions last year alone is seen supporting domestic demand. A strong energy sector will drive growth of 3.4 per cent this year. Regina’s growth is pegged at 2.9 per cent.
It’s a different story elsewhere. “The outlook is not as promising for cities in central and eastern Canada,” Mr. Lefebvre said. “The uncertain global economy, a continued slow recovery in the manufacturing sector and the windup of fiscal stimulus introduced by governments in recent years will hamper overall economic growth.”
Ontario will be hobbled by a slow U.S. recovery, strong Canadian dollar and government austerity. Manufacturing, meantime, remains well below pre-recession levels.
Belt-tightening in Ottawa will weigh on that city’s economy. Public administration employment tumbled 2 per cent last year, and is forecast to slide another 3.6 per cent this year -- a loss of 9,000 jobs over these two years. As result, real GDP growth is pegged at just 1.8 per cent this year.
Toronto’s economy is forecast to grow 2.6 per cent this year, while Hamilton, London, Kingston and Niagara will all see below-average growth.
In Quebec, Montreal’s economy will grow a modest 2 per cent this year as a third straight year of growth in the manufacturing sector helps offset an expected downturn in construction. Quebec City is forecast to expand 2.1 per cent.
Saguenay’s economy will expand by 1.5 per cent this year, its best performance since 2002. The manufacturing sector is expected to resume growth this, boosting employment in the sector.
“The brightest development in Saguenay has to be the return of positive population growth in both 2010 and 2011,” the report said. “As a result, domestic demand has been stronger and should continue to expand in 2012, leading to an almost 2-per-cent rise in overall services sector output.”
St. John’s is expected to see the country’s weakest growth, at just 0.7 per cent this year.
“After two spectacular years, the St. John’s economy has limited growth prospects this year,” the report said, amid a booming construction sector. Looking ahead, “waning offshore oil production wells, fewer housing starts, and the end of the infrastructure spending program will weaken economic growth.”
In B.C., Vancouver will grow 2.6 per cent amid a decline in residential construction and growth in the services sector. Victoria will grow a scant 1.9 per cent.