Halifax Index 2019 reports déjà vu, and that’s a great thing

Posted: June 19, 2019

The Index serves a few purposes. It’s a means of providing an annual overview and summary of key economic, demographic, social, and environmental measures. This includes celebrating progress and achievements, as well as shining a light on areas for improvement.

It also serves the purpose of a municipal report card. In 2016 Council adopted a five-year strategy, the Economic Growth Plan 2016-21, that specified a number of goals and objectives and included a commitment to transparent reporting on progress. The Index is where this reporting occurs.

If I were to summarize the Index this year in one thought, it would be that déjà vu can be a great thing.

Last year we reported on record highs for immigration and population growth, a sharp turnaround in youth retention, significant increases in business intentions to hire, invest, and innovate, and a record high in business confidence. These upturns were very encouraging, but whenever you see a deviation from a trend you have to wonder: is this indeed a new trend, or is it a one-hit wonder?

For this year’s Index we saw that these gains had momentum. This year again saw record or near-record highs and the continuation of results substantially above the longer-term average.

In terms of our Economic Growth Plan report card, we continue to see positive progress on the three top-level goals for GDP, population, and the labour force. For the goal to grow Halifax’s population to 550,000 by 2031, we are very close to being on track to achieve it; however, we have quite a ways to go to reach the aggressive goal of a GDP of $30 billion by 2031.

On many other measures we are seeing anywhere from steady to eye-popping improvements. Look at such factors as the share of businesses that consider Halifax an above-average place to do business, labour force growth, interprovincial youth retention, permanent residency transition for international students, population growth, and share of residents who feel safe, and you’ll see a very healthy upward tick over the past two years.

For our quality of life measures, construction on residential rental units reached a historic high in 2018, yet demand is so strong for rental units that vacancy rates are still going down. In 2018, Halifax’s average apartment rent grew by 2.1%, but still below the Canadian average of 3.4%. As of spring 2019, Halifax Transit charged the least (or in some cases a tie for the least) for single tickets, monthly passes, senior fares, and child fares for all six benchmark cities.

In short, there’s a great deal to be pleased about, but never room for complacency.

To download the 2019 Halifax Index, visit HalifaxIndex.com.

Written by Ian Munro, Chief Economist, Halifax Partnership

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