International immigration drives B.C. population gain

posted on July 8, 2018

By Bryan Yu, Business in Vancouver |

B.C. population growth remained solid during the first quarter despite continued sluggishness in net interprovincial migration.

As of April 1, 2018, there were an estimated 4.86 million persons residing in the province, up 1.4% or 67,719 persons from one year prior. Growth was roughly aligned with the national average, and fourth highest among provinces.

Adjusted for seasonal effects, quarterly population growth slowed slightly from an annualized pace of nearly 1.6% in the previous quarter to 1.3% in the latest quarter.

Drivers of migration have evolved. Specifically, B.C. is attracting fewer residents from other parts of Canada as economic recovery in neighbouring provinces and higher home prices slow the flow of people in search of jobs in B.C. During the quarter, net interprovincial migration was 796 persons, which was the weakest Q1 performance since 2013. In 2017, same-period net inflow had topped 3,770 persons. The trend has slowed since peaking in early 2016, with a sharper downtrend beginning mid-2017.

This downtrend has been offset by rising international migration inflows. Excluding non-permanent residents, quarterly growth of 8,559 persons was up from 7,000 in same-quarter 2017. The flow of landed immigrants is rising, reflecting the attractiveness of B.C. globally. Net non-permanent inflows have trended sharply higher, with Q1 levels more than double same-quarter 2017 at 3,577 persons, reflecting both work and study permits and refugee counts.

Of the more than 60,000 additions to B.C.’s population from migration flows over the latest four-quarter period, only 12% (7,227 persons) was due to net interprovincial inflows. The remainder was split almost evenly between net international flows (27,460 persons) and net non-permanent residents (25,600 persons).

While housing market conditions cool, the latest Teranet-National Bank repeat sales index points to housing price appreciation among B.C.’s largest urban markets in May. Both the Vancouver (up 1%) and Victoria (up 1.8%) metropolitan areas, which are part of the national composite, experienced robust month-to-month price gains. Price growth in Abbotsford-Mission (up 2%) was even stronger, with Kelowna up a mild 0.3%. All gains are unadjusted for seasonal factors.

Year-over-year price growth is decelerating but remains robust. In the Vancouver metropolitan area, growth reached 15.4% in May, with a 10.3% increase in Victoria, which slowed from an 11% gain in April. The index values for Kelowna were up 10.1% from same-month 2017, and values rose 23% in Abbotsford-Mission. •

Bryan Yu is deputy chief economist at Central 1 Credit Union.

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