Sudbury to grow in 2017: Conference Board

By Keith Dempsey, For The Sudbury Star

Following contractions in four of the previous five years, Sudbury’s real GDP is forecast to rise 1.2 per cent in 2017, the Conference Board of Canada predicts.

Apart from Sudbury, London and Thunder Bay, Ontario’s mid-sized metropolitan areas can expect economic growth to moderate this year, the board said in its Metropolitan Outlook, released Thursday.

An anticipated modest rise in nickel prices will underpin the stronger economy in Sudbury. This year, nickel has dipped below US $4 a pound at times, although prices have rallied in recent weeks. On Thursday, it stood at $4.694.

Local primary and utilities output, which includes mining activity, is expected to expand four per cent in 2017, following dips in four of the previous five years.

The increased mining activity, combined with a major local road project — the Maley Drive extension — should support solid gains in Sudbury’s construction sector this year.

“For the two Northern Ontario cities in our report, improved nickel prices will help Sudbury’s economy bounce back from three straight annual declines, while Thunder Bay’s economy will remain mired in slow growth,” said Alan Arcand, associate director, centre for municipal studies for the Board of Canada.

Economic growth in Thunder Bay will inch up by 0.2 per cent in 2017.

On the down side, Greater Sudbury’s employment is poised to fall for the fourth straight year in 2017, before starting a modest recovery in 2018.

“It has been a rough patch for the Sudbury economy the last few years,” Arcand said, “but we are projecting economic growth is presuming this year. It’s a bounce back. The economy shrunk the last four, five years, so it’s good news that there’s been a turnaround, although it’s a modest bounce back, only anticipating growth of 1.2 per cent this year, but still much better than what we’ve seen the last few years.”

The dip in employment occurred in the first quarter of 2017.

“It’s already cooked in the books, so we’re pretty sure that employment is going to fall again this year,” Arcand said. “But just marginally.”

“When you’re seeing modest economic growth, you’re going to see modest employment growth, it’s how the match works,” Arcand added. “Given that the economy is improving this year, it should see similar growth next year. The signs point to that.”

The Metropolitan Outlook: Summer 2017 is The Conference Board of Canada’s analysis of 15 medium-sized Canadian census metropolitan areas.

Oshawa and Windsor are expected to boast the fastest growing economies this year among the 15-medium sized cities examined in the report.

Most Ontario cities will see real GDP growth come in at less than 2 per cent this year.

“The weaker Canadian dollar and solid U.S. demand continue to provide a lift to many southwestern and eastern Ontario metropolitan economies, especially their export-oriented manufacturing industries,” Arcand said.

Twitter: @keith_dempsey

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What do you think? Are you optimistic about Sudbury’s economy? sud.letters@sunmedia.ca