October 20th, 2019

Lethbridge economy continues to grow


By Mabell, Dave on September 18, 2019.

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald

dmabell@lethbridgeherald.com

While some Alberta communities continue suffering an economic downtown, there’s more good news for Lethbridge.

A report from the Conference Board of Canada shows the Lethbridge region’s economy has continued growing year after year, with more to come.

“Lethbridge’s economy has fired on all cylinders over the past two years,” the non-partisan economic institute points out.

“Unlike other cities in Alberta, Lethbridge’s diverse economy emerged unscathed from the fall in oil prices in 2015 and 2016,” it emphasized.

In fact, the city’s economic growth ran opposite to what was happening in cities like Calgary and Red Deer.

Says the report, “While Alberta’s real gross domestic product declined by an annual average of 3.8 per cent over those two years, Lethbridge’s expanded by an average of 3.8 per cent.”

The report emphasizes the Lethbridge region’s economy is based on agriculture, not oil and gas – and it created an amazing 24,300 jobs in 2015. While some of those jobs were lost in 2017, payrolls rose by 1,800 in 2018.

The region’s gross domestic product grew by 5.8 per cent in 2017 and by a further 5.1 per cent in 2018, it says.

“Strong employment growth will continue, with 2,700 new jobs created this year and next,” the report predicts.

The Conference Board estimated the region will support 66,310 jobs by 2020, compared with 49,200 as recently as 2010.

“Lethbridge’s good economy has acted as a magnet for newcomers,” it adds.

“The region’s population growth averaged 2.3 per cent per year between 2014 and 2017, and came in at 1.7 per cent last year” – heading for a predicted 1.9 per cent in both 2019 and 2020.

The latest report is clearly positive for Lethbridge at a time when Alberta’s overall economy remains stalled, the Conference Board said.

“Lethbridge economic growth continues to outpace most other areas in Alberta partly due to the strength of our agriculture, manufacturing and non-commercial service sectors,” observes Trevor Lewington, chief executive officer at Economic Development Lethbridge.

The diverse nature of the Lethbridge region’s economy has been a key component in sustaining employment growth, he adds. New jobs have been created in construction and personal services, he notes, as well as information and cultural industries – which includes tech-based employment.

But Lewington says Lethbridge’s economic growth was also based on gains in the primary and utilities sector, which includes agriculture along with such non-commercial services as education and health care. Strong performances in these key sectors keep Lethbridge viable as a great place to do business, he adds.

“We know that we have two world-class post-secondary institutions in our city, and creating opportunities to retain our graduates is critical to ensuring a workforce with the skills for the future.”

The mid-sized cities report includes a summary of the Conference Board’s economic forecasts for Canada and for each of the provinces that is home to the seven featured cities in this year’s report: Sault Ste. Marie, Brandon, Moose Jaw, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Prince George and Chilliwack. Published annually, the report provides public and private decision-makers comprehensive insight into the economies of Canada’s mid-sized cities.

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