Economy shows modest growth, according to new report

NANAIMO – Vancouver Island Economic Alliance releases its first-ever State of the Island Economic Report at summit closing luncheon.

The Vancouver Island Economic Alliance released its first report on the Island’s economy, which shows modest growth since 2012.

The report, prepared by chartered accountancy and business advisory firm MNP, was delivered during the closing luncheon at the group’s annual economic summit Thursday by Susan Mowbray, senior economist with MNP’s economics and research consulting practice.

Overall, most Island economic sectors have shown growth since 2012, according to the report, although some have still not recovered to pre-2008 levels. The Island is expected to experience sustained but modest economic growth into 2016 due to immigration, tourism and increasing forestry products exports to the U.S.

Some of that outlook, the report said, hinges on the current low value of the Canadian dollar versus the U.S. dollar, which makes Canadian services and products, such as lumber, attractive to U.S. markets and bolsters tourism by drawing visitors from the U.S. to the Island and encourages British Columbians to vacation at home.

“The outlook is for this to continue,” Mowbray said. “A lot of things that are happening on a macro level right now are around the exchange rate affecting this economy and all plays to Vancouver Island’s strengths, so that we’re going to see is continued modest improvements in the forest industry, continued growth in tourism, and continued population growth.”

The document draws on multiple statistical sources, including Statistics Canada figures, and looks at the Island’s business environment and investment attraction, shifts in population and labour force, cost of living, tourism, aquaculture, forestry, new markets, the education sector and impacts on business and employment from international student enrolment, and the emerging high-tech industry.

Employment generated from manufacturing continues to be a challenge for the Island where companies might set up their head offices, but have products produced overseas, Mowbray said.

The report notes that skilled employment growth in professional, scientific and technical service is happening mostly in Nanaimo and the Capital Region due to the presence of high-tech companies, but employment gains there have not offset jobs lost in retail and wholesale trade, public administration and support services, business and real estate, resulting in a modest but continuing decline in overall employment on the Island.

The report lists health care and social assistance, and wholesale and retail trade as the Island’s leading employment sectors, followed by accommodation and food services, professional, scientific and technical services, education and public administration.

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