Housing market keeps bloom on BC economy

Thursday, April 29th, 2004

2.2 per cent growth despite fire, flood, mad cow

Lindsay Kines

B.C.’s booming housing market propelled the provincial economy to a top-four finish in Canada last year despite forest fires, floods and mad cow disease, Statistics Canada reported Wednesday.

Preliminary figures show B.C.’s economy growing by 2.2 per cent in 2003, about the same as the previous year, but above the national average of 1.7.

The province, which led the country in housing starts, tied for fourth with Alberta in real gross domestic product growth. The Northwest Territories, Newfoundland and Saskatchewan took the top three spots.

Finance Minister Gary Collins said the growth surpassed even the government’s own forecasts and reflects rising confidence in the B.C. economy. “The economy has clearly turned the corner and we’re starting to see the benefits flow to British Columbians,” he said.

The Statistics Canada report ranks B.C. second in “hours worked for all jobs,” which Collins said indicates more people are shifting to full-time from part-time jobs.

“Not only are we creating more jobs as the No. 1 job creator in Canada, but we’re creating better jobs for British Columbia,” he said in the legislature.

David Hobden, an economist with the Central Credit Union of B.C., described the growth as “moderate,” but said it’s significant that B.C. passed Ontario and pulled even with Alberta in 2003.

“That’s a big change, because the year before that, and for several years, we’ve been behind growth in both those provinces,” he said. “Consequently, we’ve seen an outflow of migrants from B.C. to those provinces, driven largely by employment opportunities. Now we’re seeing a reversal of that, and it’s because the B.C. economy is performing relatively well compared to those other two key economies.”

“It’s all about energy and housing,” Hobden said. Those are the growth industries.”

Statistics Canada says corporate profits jumped 12 per cent in B.C. last year, driven in large part by higher prices for natural gas. Business investment in housing climbed 15 per cent.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004

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