05/06/2013 06:34 EDT | Updated 07/06/2013 05:12 EDT

Half Of Canada's Mid-Sized Cities Yet To Recover From Recession

While labour force survey figures suggest that Canada overall has recouped all of the jobs it lost in the last recession, a new analysis suggests that many medium-sized cities have still not seen their employment levels return to pre-recession levels.

In its first outlook for mid-sized cities, the Conference Board of Canada looked at 46 medium-sized communities across the country – cities which were generally doing well before the recession hit in 2008.

The board found that 21 of those cities – almost half – have not regenerated all of the jobs they lost during the recession, which officially ended in 2009.

“This is a troubling turn of events, given that these mid-sized cities play an important role as economic engines in their respective regions,” said the director of the board’s Centre for Municipal Studies, Mario Lefebvre.

Some of the poorer performing cities include:

- Miramichi, N.B., which has seen its economic output drop every year since 2005 to the point where its 2012 real GDP and employment levels were less than half of what they were eight years ago.

- New Glasgow, N.S., which has seen its economy shrink every year since 2009 and has shed almost 6,000 jobs since 2008.

- Saint-Hyacinthe, Que., which has seen its economy decline for eight straight years and now reports employment levels that are half what they were in 2005.

- Drummondville, Que., which has seen real GDP decline for five consecutive years and the number of jobs has fallen by 8,000.

- Medicine Hat, Alta., which lost 14,000 jobs between 2008 and 2012 and saw its economy decline for five consecutive years over the same period.

- Vernon, B.C., which has seen its economy contract for five consecutive years.

The recession was not kind to 29 of the 46 cities, which posted negative economic growth during the 2008 and 2009 recession years. The situation was especially dire among Ontario’s 11 mid-sized cities, where all 11 saw their economies shrink.

The vast majority of medium-sized cities (40 of 46) saw their growth resume in 2010. But 13 of them saw that growth stall in the subsequent two years.

So, which are the star performers among the mid-sized crowd?

The Conference Board highlights eight urban success stories where average annual job growth was at least three per cent per year between 2005 and 2012:

- Brockville, Ont., which has added 4,500 jobs and has reported “strong economic growth.”

- Leamington, Ont., which has posted “explosive growth” of more than eight per cent annually over the last three years.

- Timmins, Ont., which added 5,000 jobs last year alone and has average growth of 2.7 per cent per year in each of the last three years.

- Prince Albert, Sask., which has seen its economy surge at an annual rate of better than four per cent annually since 2007.

- Lethbridge, Alta., which the Conference Board credits with “relatively consistent” annual economic growth since 2007.

- Wood Buffalo, Alta., where economic growth has averaged an “explosive” 6.5 per cent annually since 2005, thanks to the oilsands.

- Chilliwack, B.C., whose 6.2 per cent average annual GDP growth between 2005 and 2012 makes it one of the fastest growing mid-sized cities.

- Duncan, B.C., whose economy has rebounded since 2010 at an annual rate of 7.5 per cent.

The Conference Board analysis offered the following observations about some of the other cities it studied:

- Corner Brook, Nfld.: The economy in this city "grew strongly from 2005 to 2007, but growth has declined in four of the past five years."

- Charlottetown: The P.E.I. capital "posted positive real GDP growth every year from 2005 to 2012 and created more than 4,000 new jobs since 2005."

- Fredericton: Following "modest growth" from 2005 to 2010, the New Brunswick capital's economy declined in 2011 and 2012.

- Truro, N.S.: The city "avoided significant declines during the recession, but economic growth was modest between 2005 and 2012."

- Granby, Que.: This city "posted strong economic growth in five of the past six years, which led to the creation of more than 3,000 jobs during that period."

- Sept-Iles, Que.: "Thanks largely to a rising population, output and employment in Sept-Iles grew solidly between 2005 and 2012."

- Kawartha Lakes, Cornwall, Norfolk, Sarnia, North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.: The economies of all these cities "were about the same size in 2012 as they were in 2005."

- Moose Jaw, Sask.: Moose Jaw grew by a "modest" 1.2 per cent per year from 2005 to 2012.

- Red Deer, Alta.: Red Deer "rebounded" from the recession with "three strong years of economic growth: from 2010 to 2012.

- Prince George, B.C.: Its economy has grown by about five per cent annually since 2010.

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