That was the basis of a State of the Island Economic Report released today by Susan Mowbray, a senior economist with MNP, during the Economic Summit hosted by the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance, VIEA.
Mowbray discussed several key points affecting the island’s economy, how businesses were affected by the economy in 2009 and how the economy is improving. Her speech was the closing keynote speech during the summit at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.
She says many businesses struggled from 2009-2014 when the dollar was too high and the U.S. economy collapsed.
“In general, the period of 2009-2014 was not one of economic growth,” says Mowbray.
However the economy has improved with changes in several sectors such as forestry and international students coming for post secondary education.
“Forestry has started to see an increase there which was driven by demand from China,” says Mowbray.
The education sector has picked up with many international students coming for post secondary education.
“International education has emerged over the last five years as an important part of the island’s economy,” says Mowbray.
The improvements to the forest industry are continuing and the population is growing with people moving to the island from Canada and other parts of B.C.
“So where are we now,” says Mowbray. “We’re looking at a good year. The economy of Vancouver Island has been expanding.”
This is driven by oil prices and a decline in the Canadian dollar, which has dropped 20% relative to the U.S. dollar.
“We’ll see continued weakness in the Canadian dollar for the next 7-9 months,” says Mowbray.
She says the forestry sector will continue to expand but the pulp market is down. With the U.S. economy showing strength and the housing market picking up, tourism has and will continue to increase.
“2015 has been a really good year,” says Mowbray. “In the first six months, traffic on B.C. Ferries has been the highest it’s been since 2010. We’re seeing a lot more U.S. visitors to the island.”
While population growth is a key driver to the economy, the labour force has shrunk, though Mowbray says participation is highest in the 25-49 age group with 89% for men and 82% for women.
“That’s higher than other parts of B.C. What that tells me is that there are jobs on Vancouver Island.
The employment growth is in forestry, mining, oil and gas as well as computer system design, management, science and technical, education and accommodation and food services.
New businesses ae formed but “most businesses are relatively small.
“Businesses that want to expand have to look beyond Vancouver Island boundaries.”