Economy and demographics

Economy and Demographics

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    Ottawa Fast Facts

    • As Canada's capital city, Ottawa is a member of the G8 group of cities
    • Fourth largest city in Canada by population
    • Second largest city in Ontario by population
    • At 2,796 sq. km, Ottawa is larger than the cities of Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton combined
    • More than $40 billion GDP
    • More than $2.5 billion in venture capital investments since 2000
    • One of the principal advanced technology centres in North America, with more than 70,000 high-tech jobs
    • More than 25,000 employers
    • More than 500,000 jobs

    Ottawa's robust economy centres on two major sectors - high technology and the federal government. Both sectors offer high-paying jobs for knowledge workers in a relatively stable environment and account for 37% of Ottawa's total gross domestic product (GDP). In 2004, the median family income in Ottawa-Gatineau was $73,500 - the highest among Canada's
    six largest cities.

    In 2001, the technology sector saw a downturn both in terms of employment and contribution to Ottawa's economy. Over the last year, however, advanced technology has shown signs of renewed growth. Overall, employment in Ottawa increased substantially in the first six months of 2006, and the local unemployment rate is at a low 4.8%, buoyed in part by a surge in non-residential construction.

    The federal government has seen sustained growth since 2001. As a result, the Ottawa economy has continued to grow since then and employment has remained stable. However, government hiring has slowed since the election of a new federal government in 2006.

    The City of Ottawa also benefits from a vital rural sector. In Ottawa, the rural economy contributes over $1 billion to the GDP. Agriculture alone accounts for $400 million, $136.7 million of which is farm-gate sales. Rural economic activity includes such things as agriculture, retail sales, construction, forestry and mining (aggregates), tourism, manufacturing, personal and business services, and transportation, to name a few. Rural employment expanded by a healthy 18% from 1996 to 2001.

    The Ottawa agricultural sector represents close to 300,000 acres of land farmed by more than 1,300 agricultural operations, employing approximately 10,000 people. Responsible, sustainable farming practices contribute to maintaining the value of Ottawa's countryside. Agriculture not only complements and affects the prosperity of other sectors such as rural tourism, but it also helps preserve the quality of rural Ottawa as a place to live and work.

    Ottawa's GDP growth remained stable at 2.4% in 2005. The Conference Board of Canada's February 2006 forecast predicts that Ottawa's GDP growth will increase to 2.8% in 2006 and average 3.2% annual growth over the coming four years.

    Gross domestic
    product is steadily

    Over the 2007 to 2010 timeframe, the Conference Board forecasts that Ottawa's GDP growth will be the seventh highest among the 20 largest cities in Canada, a significant improvement from its 13th place ranking in 2005. The following graph shows Ottawa-Gatineau's GDP from 1995 to 2010.

    GDP, Ottawa-Gatineau CMA

    GDP, Ottawa-Gatineau CMA

    In its forecast, the Conference Board also examined the diversity of the city's economic base. As previously stated, the technology and federal government sectors account for 37% of total Ottawa GDP (see table below). This level of concentration means Ottawa relies heavily on these two sectors as the main drivers of its economy. Ottawa does not experience the same level of economic fluctuations seen in other municipalities because the federal government sector has been remarkably stable over the years and government employment does not tend to vary with economic cycles.

    It is important to note that the reliability of the Conference Board's forecast hinges on growth in at least one of these two key sectors.

    Ottawa GDB by sector
    Industry sector % of total GDP
    High tech 18.9%
    Federal government 18.2%
    Tourism 2.1%
    Health and education 7.5%
    Finance, insurance, real estate 10.4%
    Trade 9.4%
    Construction 4.0%
    Primary (mainly rural output) 0.9%
    Others 28.6%
    Total 100.0%

    Source: Conference Board of Canada, Metropolitan Outlook

    CIBC's Metro Monitor reports on the rate of change in the level of economic activity among Canada's largest metro areas. The June 2006 index, which covers the first quarter of 2006, showed that the Ottawa-Gatineau economy registered the highest reading among all metro areas. The Metro Monitor notes that this ranking reflects a relatively diverse performance with the city's labour market clearly outperforming the national average from both quantity and quality perspectives.

    In the first quarter of 2006, the Ottawa-Gatineau economy performed consistently well above average in most of the important indicators such as government, building construction, employment, and lower rates of business and consumer bankruptcies. The Metro Monitor also noted that the surge in high-tech activity is probably playing an important role in the city's impressive showing. There is a slight drag, however, on overall economic performance due to a slowing of the housing market.

    Top 10 metro economies* (2006Q1)

    3Q moving average

    rates are low

    Annual inflation rates, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, averaged 2% from 2000 to 2004, exceeding 3% once in 2002. The CPI reflects the basket of goods consumed by a typical household. Low rates of inflation reflect the monetary policy the Bank of Canada favours to keep inflation within a range of 1% to 3%. Conference Board forecasts for Ottawa predict long-term inflation will average just over 2%. The following graph shows the inflation rate by month calculated as the average of the preceding 12-month period.

    Ottawa annual inflation

    12-month moving average

    Annual inflation rate

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