Today the Halifax Partnership released the 2021 Halifax Index, the city’s annual report on economic and community progress. This year’s Halifax Index includes a special analysis on the impacts of COVID-19 on Halifax’s economy and recovery.
“Coming into 2020, Halifax was in a strong position, making progress towards Halifax’s long-term Economic Growth Plan vision. But like most of the world, COVID-19 significantly impacted many aspects of our economy and community,” says Ian Munro, Chief Economist, Halifax Partnership.
Halifax experienced a recession in 2020, but it was less severe than most Canadian cities. Halifax has shown continued resilience throughout this difficult year and there are signs that economic recovery is well underway. Halifax had its second-best ever year for population growth while the latest forecast for GDP growth in 2021 calls for a rebound of almost 5%, following a contraction of 3.4% in 2020.
“As we move towards reopening, there is much optimism and hope,” says Munro. “Based on the fundamental strengths experienced before this crisis and the recovery that is already underway, Halifax can restore its long-term growth trends.”
Halifax Partnership and Halifax Regional Municipality continue to co-lead Halifax’s Economic Response and Recovery Plan to safely reopen the city and restore Halifax’s economy in collaboration with private, public, and post-secondary partners.
“Together, we are helping companies mitigate and recover from the impacts of COVID-19 while working to build a better Halifax for the future,” says Wendy Luther, President & CEO, Halifax Partnership. “We are confident Halifax’s economic growth will get back on track as our city reopens and we can safely welcome more visitors, students, newcomers, and companies to our city once again.”
HALIFAX INDEX 2021 KEY FINDINGS
The 2021 Halifax Index tracks Halifax’s vital signs across six major themes - people, labour, investment and innovation, living, affordability, and rural – benchmarked against five similarly sized Canadian cities. Like 2020, each section also includes an analysis of the impacts of COVID-19.
- Halifax again saw impressive growth in population. As the second-fastest growing Canadian city as of June 30th, 2020, Halifax gained over 9,000 new residents, largely driven by immigration.
- Halifax continues to attract young people. Over 60% of newcomers were under the age of 30.
- Halifax’s labour force showed strong resilience throughout the pandemic. Although COVID-19 resulted in temporary record-high unemployment, there are already signs of a healthy recovery. In early 2021, Halifax was leading all Canadian cities in employment growth, but the third wave caused employment numbers to dip in the spring.
- The negative effects of the pandemic were not evenly distributed across sectors and groups of people. The service sector was hit particularly hard, with youth and women seeing the largest declines in employment.
- Like all benchmark cities, Halifax’s GDP fell in 2020. Real GDP fell by 3.5%, one of the largest annual declines ever. However, the economy is expected to rebound strongly in 2021.
- Many sectors suffered deeply in 2020, including the retail trade, personal services, and tourism industries, while others fared well (technology and startups).
- Business confidence is at a record high as Halifax’s economy gears for recovery in 2021.
- Compared to urban areas, the adverse effects of COVID-19 were slightly less in rural Halifax. However, expectations regarding the return to normalcy were weaker among rural residents.
- Rural housing experienced high demand growth in 2020 and prices grew at a faster rate than in urban areas. The gap between urban and rural quality ratings for transportation is narrowing.
- Government grants, subsidies, and supports helped fight the pandemic which led to a 7.2% increase in household income per capita in 2020.
- However, housing affordability worsened significantly. Average apartment rent rose by 4.4% from 2019 to 2020, while the average resale home price jumped by 19.4%, the biggest increase across all benchmark cities.
- While many quality-of-life indicators dropped slightly from 2020 to 2021, this is not that surprising given that Halifax was enduring a pandemic and a related economic recession. The overall quality of life rating for 2021 was still above levels from 2014 through 2019.
Explore the 2021 Halifax Index at www.halifaxindex.com.