The most wide-reaching provincial economic forecast of the year, the Ontario Economic Update 2016, was released Dec. 9 by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Credit Unions of Ontario, with support from the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce. According to the data, employment growth in the Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) of St. Catharines-Niagara and Brantford has been a major contributor to the region’s strong 2015 economic performance.
The report finds that employment in the Hamilton-Niagara Peninsula (HNP) Economic Region expanded at a faster pace in 2015 than in previous years. Unlike in 2014, most of this year’s employment growth was outside the Hamilton CMA. The St. Catharines-Niagara CMA led with a near five percent rise, while employment growth in the Brantford CMA is running at a 1.5 per cent pace this year. The Hamilton CMA, meanwhile, is experiencing growth of around one per cent a year.
According to the Ontario Economic Update 2016, service-producing industries including tourism and health have been sources of employment growth. Meanwhile, the major consolidation and closures in the manufacturing sector have subsided. Regional manufacturing employment has stabilized at above 90,000 persons, down from 135,000 in 2003. Manufacturing employment in the Brantford CMA is up about eight percent this year.
Looking ahead, manufacturing, tourism, and transportation services stand to benefit from more favourable external conditions and domestic sectors such as construction, real estate, and retail trade will gain from low interest rates and an improvement in economic conditions. Job growth is forecast at 1.7 per cent during 2016 in the HNP region, slightly lower than the 2.2 per cent expected in 2015, but higher than every other year since the recession.
According to the province-wide data, most areas of Ontario will enjoy improving economic conditions in the coming year. Growth will be driven in part by an uptick in exports, the result of a stronger U.S. economy and a low Canadian dollar. Government fiscal policy will also be a key driver, as federal and provincial infrastructure commitments will stimulate growth across a variety of sectors.