It used to be, the measure of a great city consisted of variables like weather, crime rates and the quality of a town’s school system. Yet now, in this post-recession world, the first thing we want to know is: how’s your economy doing?
Indeed, rarely have the economic prospects of a city seemed so important, both to the lifeblood of the metropolis and the citizens inside them, but such is the order of the day in 2011. Where, then, are Canada’s hottest economies? Based on a wide score of indices detailed further below, here are the country’s ten fastest-growing economies as assessed by CIBC World Markets.
* The Metropolitan Economic Activity Index is a composite tally accounting for nine readings: population growth, employment growth, unemployment rate, full-time share in total employment, personal bankruptcy rate, business bankruptcy rate, housing starts, MLS housing resales and non-residential building permits.
Metropolitan Econ. Activity Index: 11.3
For years, Hamilton has had to wrestle with the success of its past, facing a tough reputation as a city of years gone by. And unfortunately, the numbers are not kind to the once mighty steel city. Despite landing a spot here, more than four of every 1,000 Hamilton businesses went bankrupt during the first quarter of 2011, the fourth-highest rate on this list and sixth-highest in the country.
Metropolitan Econ. Activity Index: 14.0
Despite a lagging real estate market, Ottawa has plenty to boast about. On the downside, the city sold about 12 per cent fewer houses in the first quarter of 2011 than it did a year earlier, and average prices increased by less than two per cent (compare to Vancouver’s near 18 per cent hike) during that same period. However, as the numbers show, it pays to host government. The home to parliament had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country (about 6.3 per cent) during the first quarter of this year, nearly two per cent less than the national average.
Metropolitan Econ. Activity Index: 14.1
By CIBC World Market’s figures, Halifax has the strongest economy of all major Maritime cities. But a closer look at the bank’s report may find cause to dub Nova Scotia’s most populous town the Bankruptcy Capital of Canada. During the first quarter of this year, Halifax had the third-highest personal bankruptcy rate (about 32 cases per 10,000 citizens) and the second-highest business bankruptcy rate (nearly eight per 1,000 companies) in the country.
Metropolitan Econ. Activity Index: 14.5
Though its real estate numbers are nauseating to the rest of the country, Vancouver’s red-hot housing market may nonetheless be a sign of economic strength. In spite of sky-high prices and a near-18 per cent average hike year-over-year during the first quarter of 2011, Vancouver houses still sell. Vancouver sold nearly 15 per cent more homes in the first quarter of this year than the same period in 2010, the second-highest rate in Canada.
Metropolitan Econ. Activity Index: 16.6
If it weren’t for the next city on this list, Quebec City would be the hottest economy in its province. Still, low unemployment (about a full percentage point below the national average during the first quarter of 2011) and a population growing by about 1.25 per cent more than it was during the same period last year suggests Quebec’s capital is in good shape going forward.
Metropolitan Econ. Activity Index: 17.2
Of course, Montreal steals Quebec’s thunder. The city scored by CIBC World Markets as the hottest economy of 2010 ranks fifth this year, and keeps a “healthy pace of momentum reflect[ed by] continued improvement in the manufacturing sector,” according to the bank. Montreal must be wary of one thing, though: its unemployment rate, above eight per cent in the first three months of 2011, is the fourth-highest in Canada and the highest of the ten cities that appear on this list.
Metropolitan Econ. Activity Index: 17.7
Saskatchewan’s hottest economy has plenty to look forward to, including a rapidly-growing population and low unemployment — the second-lowest rate in Canada. Regina’s personal bankruptcy rate (only 12 out of every 10,000 declared bankruptcy in the first quarter of 2011) is also the lowest of any major Canadian metropolis.
Metropolitan Econ. Activity Index: 18.0
Manitoba’s capital is enjoying growth inconsistent with the rest of the country. Aside from being one of only five Canadian cities to sell more homes in the first three months of 2011 than it did in the same period a year earlier, Winnipeg’s population is also growing at a rate of about a half percentage point higher than the national average. Oh, and then there’s this to consider: Winnipeg’s first quarter unemployment rate, less than six per cent, is also the lowest of any major Canadian city.
Metropolitan Econ. Activity Index: 19.0
Though Waterloo-based Research In Motion’s recent trials have brought the area gloom and doom, Kitchener’s economy is booming. According to CIBC World Markets, the Ontario town’s employment has risen by more than eight per cent in the first three months of 2011 over a year earlier, and more importantly, more than 80 per cent of employed Kitchener residents hold full-time jobs, a strong economic indicator.
Metropolitan Econ. Activity Index: 25.0
Leading the Canadian pack is Toronto, which soars over the competition where economic momentum is concerned. The hottest Canadian city is still growing in population (only Saskatoon, Calgary and Vancouver added more citizens year-over-year in the first quarter of 2011) and employment rose by about three per cent during the first quarter of this year. Of the workers in Toronto, about 82 per cent hold full-time positions, one of the higher scores in the country.
- Do we care that Canada is an unequal society? (theglobeandmail.com)
- Toronto has top-performing Canadian economy: report (ctv.ca)
- Toronto’s economy tops amongst 25 Canadian cities: CIBC report (thestar.com)
- Toronto has top-performing economy, CIBC says (cbc.ca)
- Countdown: Find out which Canadian cities have the strongest economies (calgaryherald.com)
- Saskatoon fastest growing city in Canada (canada.com)
- Dollar soars near three-year high on rate-hike expectations (calgaryherald.com)