New census data shows the population of the metropolitan area of Calgary outpaced the national growth rate over the last five years. But some economists say the statistics do not reflect the current situation in the city.
Statistics Canada released the first batch of numbers from the 2016 census on Wednesday and the population of what the government agency refers to as the census metropolitan area of Calgary increased by 14.6 per cent since the last census in 2011.
The area’s growth rate was above the national growth rate of 5.0 per cent, while the population of Alberta increased by 11.6 per cent.
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It’s been a different story in the nine months since the census ended.
“Things have slowed down, immigration into Calgary has really slowed down and this has caused the housing market to slow down,” University of Calgary School of Public Policy economics professor Ron Kneebone told Global News. “It is causing the unemployment rate to go up and there is a little bit of good news here: it is causing the amount of homelessness to fall, because people are stopping coming to Calgary looking for work.”
ATB Financial economist Todd Hirsch said over the five years the census was taken, Alberta did experience quite a few years of very strong economic and population growth.
“It really has only been in the last couple of years, 2015 and into 2016, where Alberta has been in recession,” he said. “Even during the recession, natural population growth has continued to be very strong in Alberta.
“If the stats included all of 2016 and now into 2017, I think we would see slower population growth in Alberta because that out-migration to other provinces has picked up a little bit.”
Hirsch suggested the city is primarily losing jobseekers to British Columbia and Ontario, where the economy is better.
Census metropolitan areas do not conform to established municipal boundaries. Statistics Canada defines them as a metropolitan area with a population of at least 100,000, where the urban core of that area has at least 50,000 people. Commuting patterns and other factors are used in determining these census metropolitan areas. Looking at metropolitan areas this way takes in to account the growing impact of suburban areas on Canada’s largest cities.
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When the 2016 census was taken last May 10, the population of the census metropolitan area of Calgary was 1,392,609, compared with 1,214,839 from the 2011 census. The population of the actual city of Calgary was 1,239,220, up from from 1,096,833 in 2011.
The census indicated that Calgary ranked No. 4 among the country’s 35 census metropolitan areas.
Canada’s population on census day was 35,151,728, Statistics Canada reported.
The national census is conducted every five years. The information published Wednesday is the first of several releases of data to come from Statistics Canada over the next year that will eventually paint a detailed picture of the country, right down to the local level – including age breakdowns of the population, family makeup, languages spoken, immigration and ethnic origin, the level of education attained and income earned.
Future census releases will give more insight to explain the reasons behind the population changes – whether it’s related mostly to changes in birth and death rates, immigration or interprovincial migration.
At the provincial level, population levels in Alberta saw the highest increase at 11.6 per cent, followed by Saskatchewan (6.3 per cent) and Manitoba (5.8 per cent).
Here is a local breakdown of census population information for communities in the Calgary region:
|City of Calgary||1,239,220||1,096,833||13.0|
|Rocky View County||39,407||35,754||10.2|
With files from Global News
© 2017 The Canadian Press