MRO Magazine

Where’s the job growth in mid-sized cities – and where’s the stagnancy?

Ottawa – Nearly half of the 46 mid-sized Canadian cities covered in The Conference Board of Canada’s first Mid-Sized Cities Outlook 2013 have not recovered all the jobs lost during the recession, based on historical economic data...

Ottawa – Nearly half of the 46 mid-sized Canadian cities covered in The Conference Board of Canada’s first Mid-Sized Cities Outlook 2013 have not recovered all the jobs lost during the recession, based on historical economic data between 2005 and 2012.

“The employment picture has been uneven among Canada’s mid-sized cities over the past decade or so. A total of 21 cities have yet to see their employment levels return to pre-recession levels. This is a troubling turn of events, given that these mid-sized cities play an important role as economic engines in their respective regions,” said Mario Lefebvre, director, Centre for Municipal Studies.

Continued uncertainty on the world stage, particularly in Europe, brought about softer economic growth over the past two years.

Six mid-sized cities posted average annual job gains of at least 3% per year, which means that employment in these areas grew by over 20% during the past seven years.


Most mid-sized cities were enjoying great economic success before the 2008-09 global recession. However, 29 of the 46 mid-sized cities posted negative economic growth on an average annual basis in 2008 and 2009. The recession was particularly painful for mid-sized cities in Ontario, where the economies contracted in all 11 mid-sized cities. In contrast seven of the 10 mid-sized cities in Atlantic Canada bucked this trend during the recession.

Fortunately for most mid-sized cities, economic growth resumed in 40 of 46 cities in 2010. But the recovery was short lived for many; 13 posted average annual negative economic growth between 2011 and 2012.

Not all employment news has been negative. Between 2005 and 2012, eight mid-sized cities posted average job growth greater than or close to three per cent per year:

• Brockville, ON

• Leamington, ON.

• Timmins, ON

• Prince Albert, SK

• Lethbridge, AB

• Wood Buffalo, AB

• Chilliwack, BC, and

• Duncan, BC.

The Mid-Sized Cities Outlook is The Conference Board of Canada’s first such analysis. The publication has historical economic and employment data for 46 mid-sized Canadian cities. Economic forecasts are provided for eight cities that contributed financially to the research – Fredericton, Sept-Îles, Rimouski, Granby, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Brandon, Lethbridge and Red Deer.

Cross-Canada roundup: Economic performance 2005-2012


• In Corner Brook, NF, the economy grew strongly from 2005 to 2007, but growth has declined in four of the past five years.

• Charlottetown, PEI, posted positive real GDP growth every year from 2005 to 2012 and created more than 4,000 new jobs since 2005.

• Summerside’s economy in PEI has expanded every year since 2006, but, surprisingly, the number of jobs in the region has fallen.

• Following modest growth from 2005 to 2010, in New Brunswick, Fredericton’s economy declined in 2011 and 2012.

• In Bathurst, NB, the economy grew for six consecutive years between 2005 and 2010, but growth tailed off the past two years.

• The economy in Edmundston, NB, is about the same size as it was eight years ago.

• Not only has New Brunswick’s Miramichi’s economic output declined every year since 2005, both its 2012 real GDP and employment levels were less than half of what they were eight years ago.

• Cape Breton’s economy has grown every year since 2005, but employment in 2012 was largely the same as it was in the mid-2000s.

• Truro, NS, avoided significant declines during the recession, but economic growth was modest between 2005 and 2012.

• The economy in New Glasgow, NS, shrank every year since 2009 and the region has shed almost 6,000 jobs since 2008.


• Thanks largely to a rising population, output and employment in Sept-Iles grew solidly between 2005 and 2012.

• Granby posted strong economic growth in five of the past six years, which led to the creation of more than 3,000 jobs during that period.

• The economy of Rouyn-Noranda/Val-d’Or grew by more than 3% annually between 2010 and 2012.

• After significant declines in real GDP between 2007 and 2009, Rimouski’s economy posted three consecutive years of strong growth starting in 2010.

• Thanks to three years of steady economic growth, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu created a total of almost 4,000 new jobs over 2011 and 2012.

• Baie-Comeau’s economy grew for eight consecutive years, but employment shrank by almost 2,000 between 2005 and 2012.

• Shawinigan’s economy was smaller in 2012 than it was in 2005, and the region lost more than 5,000 jobs over this time frame.

• Real GDP in Drummondville has declined for five consecutive years and employment has fallen by almost 8,000.

• Saint Hyacinthe’s economy has been declining for eight years and both its real GDP and employment levels are nearly half of what they were in 2005.


• After a difficult period between 2005 and 2009, Leamington has posted explosive economic growth in the past three years, averaging more than 8% annually.

• Since 2005, Brockville has posted strong economic growth and added 4,500 new jobs in the region.

• Belleville’s economy grew by more than 4% on average between 2010 and 2012.

• Timmins grew by an average 2.7% per year in each of the past three years and added 5,000 jobs in 2012 alone.

• The economies in Kawartha Lakes, Cornwall, Norfolk, Sarnia, North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie were about the same size in 2012 as they were 2005.

• Chatham-Kent’s economy shrank in six of the eight years between 2005 and 2012.


• Wood Buffalo (centred on Fort McMurray, AB) has posted explosive economic growth since 2005 – averaging 6.5% per year – and added almost 17,000 new jobs.

• The economy in Grande Prairie, AB, grew by an average of 3% annually between 2005 and 2012.

• Red Deer, AB, rebounded from the 2009 recession with three strong years of economic growth between 2010 and 2012.

• Lethbridge, AB, has posted relatively consistent annual economic growth since 2007, although employment levels have varied from year to year.

• Medicine Hat’s economy in Alberta declined for five consecutive years between 2008 and 2012, and 14,000 jobs were lost over that period.

• In Saskatchewan, Moose Jaw’s economy grew by a modest 1.2% per year during the 2005-2012 period.

• Prince Albert has enjoyed economic growth of more than four per cent on an average annual basis since 2007.

• In Manitoba, Brandon’s economy contracted by a total of 1.6% between 2008 and 2012, but has enjoyed strong population growth in recent years, a positive indicator moving forward.

British Columbia

• Prince George’s economy has grown by about 5% annually since 2010.

• Chilliwack was one of the fastest-growing mid-sized economies in the country between 2005 and 2012, with average annual increases in GDP of 6.2%.

• Duncan lost ground for five consecutive years between 2005 and 2009, but has rebounded with growth averaging 7.5% annually since 2010.

• Kamloops has posted solid economic and employment growth since 2005.

• After posting particularly strong increases between 2005 and 2007, the economy of Courtenay, Nanaimo and Dawson Creek expanded at a more modest pace from 2008 to 2012.

• Vernon’s economy has contracted for five consecutive y

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