04 September 2013

The Boom and the Un-Boom #nlpoli

Ask people in the St. John’s business community about the economy and they are likely to have trouble holding back the grin long enough to get a few words out.

Look around Capital City and you’ll see plenty of job vacancies in the restaurants and small shops.

Meanwhile,  some locals found it newsworthy this Labour Day weekend to note that the companies building the Long Harbour nickel smelter/refinery have had to bring in skilled workers from overseas to fill jobs the local labour pool can’t supply.

All sounds wonderful, until you start to look a little closer.

Take population, for example.  A lot of the chatter about boom times is about people.  Or more specifically, the talk is about the shortage of people living here to take the jobs.

That makes a lot of sense.  Population explosion and economic explosion go hand in hand.  Look at Alberta.  Look at Fort Mac.  The place grew so fast they couldn’t build houses and apartments fast enough to keep up with it.

Look next door to at Saskatchewan.  The 2012 Statistics Canada  annual demographic estimates described the province this way:

In 2011/2012, Saskatchewan saw its population grow by 22,200 or 2.1%, a record increase for this province for the period covered by the current demographic accounting system.

A record increase.

There’s more:  “Net international migration (+13,700) was the main factor behind the province's population growth, combined with positive net interprovincial migration (+2,800), which was positive for a sixth consecutive year. For the year ended June 30, Saskatchewan was the only province along with Alberta to register gains in these migratory exchanges with other parts of Canada. It especially benefited from such exchanges with certain provinces, with net gains of 2,100 with Ontario and 600 with British Columbia.”

Now that’s a boom.  Record growth.  Huge international migration coupled with interprovincial migration second only to Alberta.

And it’s been going on for six years.  Not one.  Not two.  Not three, four, or five years.  But six years.

Scan down the page and look to see what they said about Newfoundland and Labrador.

What?  This can’t be right.

“During the year 2011/2012, the population of Newfoundland and Labrador remained relatively stable according to preliminary estimates. …  The gains in international migration (+1,200) were entirely offset by losses in migratory exchanges with the other provinces and territories (-1,600).”

For every new person that came into Newfoundland and Labrador  from outside Canada  another person left for somewhere else in Canada.  And every once in a while a couple of people left. That just sounds better than saying one point something people high-tailed it up-along.

Statistics Canada even put up a picture:

Demographic growth rate, 2010/2011 and 2011/2012, Canada, provinces and territories

When you look at the picture – and the population growth in the other provinces -  you see just how un-boom the population situation is out in the youngest, coolest, hippest whatever this is these days.

Only the Northwest Territories shrank more in 2012 than Newfoundland and Labrador. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick pulled off growth.  In 2012/2011, Newfoundland and Labrador trailed all provinces, bar none.

Pretty striking comparison.

Makes you wonder what all this boom talk is about.