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New Brunswick Retail Economy Had A Strong Start This Year, Says APEC Report

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HALIFAX – New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have all had a strong start to 2019, according to the latest edition of the Atlantic Currents report from the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC).

“Nova Scotia recorded broad employment growth with job increases in all economic regions as well as growth in retail sales and exports. New Brunswick recorded the highest growth in retail sales in the region and the largest decline in manufacturing sales in Canada as low oil prices weighed on sales values. Newfoundland and Labrador saw a decline in retail sales and comparatively modest growth in manufacturing sales,” said APEC senior policy analyst Fred Bergman in a release.

“Prince Edward Island continued to show evidence of its booming economy with rising retail sales and nation-leading manufacturing sales growth.”

The report also looked at longer-term trends in each province’s economies.

PEI led the country in growth in 2017 and 2018, the report noted. The province posted GDP gains in traditional sector like agriculture and fishing, as well as industries like aerospace and biosciences. PEI’s growth was underpinned by a nation-leading rise in its population since 2016, driven largely by immigration. But its comparatively low immigrant retention rate threatens to temper that, APEC said.

New Brunswick and Nova Scotia trailed behind PEI on growth.

Over the past five years, New Brunswick’s economy has improved slightly. Growth averaged 0.9 per cent and employment has stabilized. But industrial restructuring has weighed on overall growth, including declines in energy and mining, APEC noted.

Between 2014 and 2018, the province led the country in terms of employment growth in the finance and insurance sector at 27 per cent. A bulk of that gain (84 per cent) came from insurance carriers.

However, the economic gains aren’t even across the province. Moncton and Fredericton saw more significant population growth, Saint John experienced a modest increase, while in most of the remaining areas, there were declines.

Within the same four-year period, Nova Scotia’s real GDP growth averaged 1.2 per cent. In the last five years, most of the province’s manufacturing real GDP growth was in the pharmaceuticals, tires and ship building industries.

While population growth between 2014 and 2018 contributed to economic growth by causing more spending, employment growth in the last five years was nearly flat, APEC said. Employment gains in Halifax and New Glasgow were offset by decreases in Cape Breton, Truro and the rest of the North Shore.

In Newfoundland, the economy is stabilizing following large swings in project investment. The province saw gains in oil, mining, aquaculture and cannabis supporting growth, and it benefited from an increase in major project investment between 2009 and 2015. But the decline in investment since, in addition to a sharp fall in oil prices in 2014, is significantly impacting its population and economy.

APEC noted that although the economic outlook is positive economic, led by increased oil production, the population outlook and fiscal situation remain a concern.

The report also looked at the impact of Atlantic Canada’s ocean economy, which makes up 15-to-20 per cent of the region’s economy and 75 per cent of Canada’s ocean sector. Between 2014 and 2018, ocean-related industries saw the value of Atlantic primary fish exports grow 43 per cent. APEC expects the ocean sector’s growth to continue with the help of federal funding through the Ocean Supercluster.