A Pulse-Check on the Halifax Economy

July 16, 2018

Halifax Index 2018 - Blog Photo

The seventh edition of the Halifax Index – a definitive report on Halifax’s economic and community progress – was launched in June to over 200 people at the new Nova Centre.

In terms of high-level goals, we continue to see positive progress in labour force and GDP growth, although we currently are not on track to reach the aggressive targets set out in Halifax’s Economic Growth Plan 2016-21. However, strong immigration numbers for the past two years have led to record population growth, which does put us on pace to meet our targets for this goal.

Another highlight from the Index is a third consecutive record high for our Business Confidence Index, compiled from a survey of Halifax businesses conducted by Corporate Research Associates.

At this year’s Index launch event, we told our city’s story through various “life cycle” perspectives. What do the data tell us about how Halifax is doing as a place to raise a family, pursue a post-secondary education, start a career, run a business, and transition into retirement? As with any examination of this kind, there are some successes to celebrate as well as some areas where the need to improve is apparent.

Our City Matters survey of Halifax residents, conducted by MQO Research, generated an average score of 7.4 (on a 10-point scale) when respondents were asked to rate Halifax as a place to raise a family. However, a significant number of Halifax families are struggling and our youngest age groups have the highest prevalence of poverty. Many families also have concerns over the cost and accessibility of child care. While many of our P-12 education statistics have shown improvements in recent years, we need to do better in terms of the number of children who are not meeting academic expectations.

Among Halifax’s great strengths are our outstanding post-secondary institutions and the many talented young graduates they turn out each year, including a rapidly rising number of international students. In order to retain these graduates, we need to be mindful of ensuring there are affordable rental and housing options available for students and young people entering the workforce. As the city continues to grow, ensuring that construction and development can continue to increase residential supply and avoid escalating rental costs will be critical.

In addition to new record highs in our Business Confidence Index, our survey of businesses found several very encouraging increases across a range of intended activities for the next year. Over six years of data, we hit record highs in terms of businesses intending to increase sales, hire additional staff, introduce a new product or service, make a major investment in facilities or equipment, or make a major investment in research and development.

Turning to those who are approaching or entering retirement, the 65+ age group has seen the greatest increase in its labour force participation rate of any age cohort. The traditional age of retirement has, for many, instead become a time for transition into the role of mentor, entrepreneur, or community activist.

As with the life cycle of any person, there are ups and downs. Across the life cycle we have mapped out for our city, we can see there are areas where we are doing well, and areas that still need work. We must all remain focused on achieving long-term economic growth and prosperity for Halifax. 

To get the Index’s full story on life and business in Halifax, please check out the document available at HalifaxIndex.com.

Written by Ian Munro, Chief Economist, Halifax Partnership