TORONTO - Toronto continues to lead the country in terms of economic momentum thanks largely to steady growth in population, employment and housing starts, according to a survey by CIBC World Markets.
CIBC says is the second time in a row that Canada's largest city has topped its Canadian Metropolitan Economic Activity Index, posting an overall reading of 23.0 in the third quarter. It also topped the rankings in the bank's previous survey, done in the first quarter of last year.
“For the second time in a row, the city of Toronto emerged as the one to beat, with the city showing the fastest economic momentum as of the third quarter of 2011,” said CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal.
“What's so impressive about the ranking of Toronto in our current reading is not that the city is once again ranked first among the country's largest 25 metropolitan areas, but the fact that it has been in the top five for more than six consecutive years, with the only exception being the 2009 recession when Toronto's ranking slipped to seventh place.”
CIBC says the city's index of economic momentum is currently at its highest level in more than 10 years.
And while Toronto did not lead in any one of the sub-measures CIBC uses, the bank says it was a consistently strong performer across most of the nine key macroeconomic variables in the index.
That reflects “the growing diversity of the city's economic engine, the bank said.
Second on the index was Edmonton, at 20.0, followed by Kitchener at 18.0, Halifax at 16.8 and Vancouver at 15.5.
Among other large metropolitan areas, Ottawa came in sixth at 15.2, Montreal seventh at 14.9, Regina eighth at 13.8, Calgary ninth at 13.1, Quebec City 11th at 11.5 and Winnipeg 12th at 11.1.
Toronto, since bottoming out in third quarter of 2009, has seen its population rise by 3.9 per cent, much faster than the 2.5 per cent growth seen in the country as a whole.
Employment growth across the same period has also been strong, up by 4.6 per cent in the city versus 3.4 per cent nationally and with a larger portion of Toronto's new jobs being full-time positions.
The second-place ranking for Edmonton, up from 11th in the first quarter of 2011, reflected the city's strong labour market with overall employment rising by almost eight per cent year-over-year in the third quarter - the fastest pace among all of Canada's top cities.
“As well, Edmonton's population is now rising by a year-over-year rate of 1.7 per cent - well above the national average, while the number of consumer and business bankruptcies are among the lowest in the nation,” CIBC said.
Halifax, like Toronto, did not lead the pack in any of the sub-measures, “but it ranked high enough in many categories to achieve the fourth spot in our current ranking (up from eighth).” CIBC said.
“The city enjoyed a relatively healthy population growth while the labour market is performing somewhat above average. The real estate market is well balanced, with housing starts rising by well over 40 per cent year-over-year in the third quarter of 2011.”
Vancouver, ranked fifth, “continues to enjoy above average population growth, while the pace of job creation and the level of employment quality are well above the national average.”
CIBC said that while Vancouver's unemployment rate has been improving recently it is still relatively high and close to the national average, while the pace of real estate activity is starting to slow."