Moncton set to lead province in economic growth

Moncton is expected to break into the top 10 metropolitan economies in Canada, according to the Conference Board of Canada's winter outlook.

Conference Board of Canada report also says province's mining industry set to expand

Moncton is expected to break into the top 10 metropolitan economies in Canada in 2013, according to the Conference Board of Canada's winter outlook.

Moncton is also set to lead the cities in Atlantic Canada this year in economic growth.

Moncton's gross domestic product is expected to increase by 2.5 per cent this year, which is expected to outpace Halifax’s 2.3 per cent and St. John’s 1.7 per cent.

Jane MacIntyre, the senior Atlantic economist for the Conference Board of Canada, said Moncton’s economic fortunes are being buoyed by its manufacturing sector.

"Some of the bright spots in Moncton [include] the manufacturing sector," MacIntyre said.

"It's been solid for a few years now since the 2009 recession and again some of that has to do with Moncton's position as a hub."

The economic think tank said the strength of the manufacturing sector and an improved services sector will offset declines in the construction sector.

But the economic growth forecasts for Moncton may not be completely rosy.

David Campbell, an economic development consultant in Moncton, said those growth rates are actually an economic wake-up call.

"Economic growth and employment growth both province-wide and in the metropolitan areas of Moncton and Saint John are very sobering at that level of growth it's going to be very, very hard for the provincial government to balance its books," Campbell said.

Campbell said urban centres in the province usually help prop up the provincial economy.

But the economic development consultant the province needs to identify growth sectors and stimulate business.

And the 10th place could be a blip, according to the report. Moncton's long-term growth still puts it in 20th position for Canadian cities.

Moncton’s unemployment rate has steadily remained the lowest of the two largest cities. The city’s unemployment was 6.7 per cent in January compared to 9.9 per cent in Saint John.

The economic report did have some good news for the province.

The provincial economy will receive a boost from the mining sector in the next two years. The Conference Board is expecting the mining industry to expand by 39.7 per cent in 2013 and 47.9 per cent in 2014.

The report also predicts the province’s unemployment rate will drop below 10 per cent in the next year.

"With the forestry sector rising from the abyss and industrial production picking up steam, close to 9,165 positions are expected to be added to the economy over the next two years, helping to bring down the unemployment rate to an average of 8.1 per cent in 2014," the report said.