Major City Insights: Halifax—May 2022

The Conference Board of Canada, May 10, 2022
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Despite the rise in case counts from both the Omicron and BA.2 variants early in 2022, most Canadian cities have already seen restrictions loosened or dropped. We expect this to aid in the continued recovery of CMA economies across the country this year. It’s especially good news for the travel and tourism markets in each region, which so far have lagged most other industries in returning to their pre-pandemic levels. Still, higher prices and instability in other parts of the world serve as a downside risk to this year’s outlook.

This edition of our Major City Insights provides new forecasts for growth in 13 major cities across Canada as of March 23, 2022.

This forecast focuses on the Halifax metropolitan economy.

Document Highlights

  • Though the decline in Halifax’s real GDP was a relatively mild 1.5 per cent in 2020, the economy still rebounded strongly last year, posting growth of 5.5 per cent. Real GDP is forecast to rise by an additional 2.6 per cent per year, on average, over 2022 and 2023.
  • Last year’s increase in economic output was widespread across many sectors, thanks to the lessening of lockdowns and restrictions, as well as an influx of people moving to the city from other provinces.
  • Indeed, in the midst of the pandemic-induced housing boom, net interprovincial migration topped 5,000 people in each of 2020 and 2021, more than 10 times the annual average of the previous decade. The Halifax region remained a relatively cheap option compared with some of the larger Canadian cities, even in the face of strong price growth.
  • Overall, Halifax’s population growth topped 2 per cent in each of the past two years, despite net international migration initially falling in 2020 and net intercity migration slipping in both 2020 and 2021.
  • While the net interprovincial numbers will likely decline in the coming years, net international migration has already picked up again and will help fill the loss. The province recently signed on to a permanent version of the Atlantic Immigration Program, which should keep international migration elevated in the coming years, helping to keep demand in the local economy on the upswing.
  • Omicron and its subvariant BA.2 have resulted in some of the highest case counts in Halifax since COVID-19 first appeared. Although new health restrictions were introduced early in 2022, the provincial government started a three-step plan to phase out these restrictions in February.
  • Mid-February saw the return of events such as festivals and sporting events (at reduced capacity) and the lifting of border restrictions for visitors from other Canadian provinces. Phase 2 increased capacity limits for events as of March 7, and Phase 3 removed them effective March 21.
  • The end of restrictions should help to boost economic activity, especially for recreation and travel industries, including the arts and entertainment sector and the accommodation and food services sector, which have so far lagged the recovery.

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