If you think London seems busier these days, your eyes aren’t deceiving you.
The Forest City is growing at a rate not seen in 25 years.
New figures released by Statistics Canada show the population of the London Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) grew by 2.4 per cent in 2017-18.
“The 2008 recession really hit our city hard and we were losing people to the western provinces and other places where there were good economic opportunities,” said demographer and King’s University College professor Dr. Don Kerr.
“Most recently that has turned around, and we are getting a net gain in terms of population in other provinces,” Kerr said, “which we haven’t seen for some time.”
The figures make London the fifth-fastest growing municipality in Canada, behind Peterborough, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ottawa, and Windsor.
“We’re also likely experiencing some of this spillover of Toronto’s growth. It’s quite a dramatic shift we are seeing in terms of migration from other parts of the province. Because just after the last recession, we were hardly getting anything from other parts of the province,” said Kerr. “So it’s an encouraging sign.”
Toronto’s population grew by two per cent in 2017-2018, 0.4 per cent less than the London region.
WATCH: 2018 Ontario election saw more MPPs due to population growth (June, 2018)
The unemployment rate in London-St. Thomas sits at 5.4 per cent, which, according to Kerr, is quite low and it’s hard to get it much lower than that. But as the population continues to rise, the number of employment opportunities do not.
“We really haven’t seen the employment growth that we might hope for. So, while our population is growing, let’s hope we will see the jobs that can accommodate that population growth.”
Kerr believes that population growth is a positive and a good sign for local businesses aiming to make profit.
“As the population grows, it’s an economic stimulus. People buy homes, they rent apartments and they have to buy appliances for those homes. If you’re trying to sell products or services locally this would have to be a good sign.”
While the five fastest-growing communities in the country are in Ontario, not everywhere in southwestern Ontario is seeing growth.
Leamington saw the highest rate of decline in Canada. According to Statistics Canada the 2017-2018 growth rate in Leamington was measured at -20.3.