N.S. inflation slows to 4.6% in March, but food, housing prices expected to remain high
Supply chain problems and strong demand keeping costs up, says expert
Nova Scotia's inflation rate slowed from 6.5 per cent in February to 4.6 per cent in March, according to the latest consumer price index data.
However, that doesn't mean Nova Scotians will see prices fall, according to an associate professor of economics from Saint Mary's University in Halifax.
"We might not see [pre-COVID prices] anywhere in [the] near future," said Bidyut Talukdar. "It's probably permanently up."
Talukdar says energy prices, which include gasoline and natural gas, are one reason why inflation is slowing. Nova Scotia's gasoline inflation rate was negative 12.2 per cent last month.
Inflation rates measure the year-over-year change in the cost of a set bundle of goods.
Rae-Leigh MacInnes, 44, is a Cole Harbour resident who feels pressure to work a second job to cover her cost of living.
"I've done it before. I was younger, but yeah, if I have to do that, that's what I will do," she said.
MacInnes said inflation has also made her more conscientious of what she buys at the grocery store.
She said she is "cutting out certain things, definitely, just to be able to afford food and eating less."
Grocery costs in the province rose 10.6 per cent in March, compared to the same month in 2022. That's tied for the highest rate in Canada, although all provinces are continuing to experience high food inflation.
Nova Scotia's grocery inflation rate peaked last November at 13.1 per cent, the highest rate since July 1981.
"The fundamental causes for higher food price growth, one is definitely the supply chain disruptions due to COVID interruptions, labour shortages, in some cases tariffs, higher input cost," Talukdar said. "Fertilizer cost is doubled compared to [the] 2020 price."
He says the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia is also disrupting world commodity markets, particularly driving up grain prices.
For MacInnes, inflation also affects her housing. Previously, she had a car and was able to commute to Halifax for work while living in Truro, where it was easier to find housing.
However, after she crashed into a deer and wrecked her car, she had to move back to the city at the end of March, as there wasn't enough work as a registered massage therapist in Truro.
MacInnes said she is currently couch surfing.
"I haven't really felt like I've had a home, like a steady home for [almost] a year now," MacInnes said, adding that every place feels temporary.
"I don't want to waste my time in any more short-term homes that I'm just settling for. I want to find a home where I feel safe … and make it my home," MacInnes said. "Because I deserve that. I think everybody deserves that."
The cost of renting or owning a home in Nova Scotia rose 8.8 per cent and 7.6 per cent, respectively, in March compared to a year ago. These are the first- and second-highest rates in Canada.
Talukdar says one reason the price of housing has increased so quickly in Nova Scotia is that the supply isn't keeping up with growing demand.
"If you see historically, [the] population in Nova Scotia was very stagnant," he said.
"So demand for housing, it's [gone] up since the pandemic disproportionally," Talukdar said. He said the cost of construction has also gone up.
Talukdar said he has an optimistic outlook and anticipates that inflation will fall gradually. He predicts food inflation will cool in the summer.