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January 15, 2014: The economic outlook for the London/St. Thomas region is cautiously optimistic, as it continues to experience slow growth and adjusts to considerable challenges in its manufacturing base, according to a new economic forecast released by the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce and the Credit Unions of Ontario.

A complete copy of our regional report is available from the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce.

Local economic growth will remain slightly below the provincial average through 2014 and into 2015, held down by weak gains in consumer spending, personal income and residential investment as well as declining government investment and spending.

Total employment in the region is well above its 2009 recession low, and is expected to grow modestly over the next two years, from 327,500 in 2013 to 333,100 in 2015. Most jobs will be created in health-social services, retail-wholesale trade and various other service industries. Manufacturing employment is expected to hold at current levels.

The unemployment rate is forecasted to decline to 7.6 percent in 2015, from 8.1 percent in 2013.

Housing prices across the entire London region will continue to grow at a healthy rate and will rise to an average of $257,000 in 2015, up from $230,000 in 2011. Housing sales are expected to pick up again in 2014 after a 0.9 percent decline in 2013.

St. Thomas will continue to offer exceptionally good value in housing compared to other municipalities in the region, thanks to very competitive and aggressive pricing on land, taxes and construction. Private sector investment in non-residential building construction, mostly stores and offices, is also expected to increase.

"The economic picture for our region isn't perfect, but it is definitely showing improvement and promise over the long-term. We know we can improve and grow, and this report lays the foundation to show us the way," says Bob Hammersley, President & CEO of the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce.

The London economic region covers Oxford, Elgin and Middlesex counties and is home to over 660,000 residents. The region's economic base is relatively more concentrated in manufacturing and agriculture, its primary export industries, and has a fairly broad service industry base. Its principal centre is the London Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) which contains most of the region's manufacturing base.

Key Facts and Highlights in our review:

  • Housing prices across the entire London continue to grow at a healthy rate and will rise to an average of $257,000 in 2015, up from $230,000 in 2011. Housing sales are expected to pick up again in 2014 after a 0.9 percent decline in 2013.
  • Net migration to the London region is expected to rebound modestly after a dip in 2013. Over 5,000 people are expected to move to the region by 2015.
  • The unemployment rate in the region will fall gradually to 7.6 percent by 2015, still above the projected provincial average of 6.8 percent.
  • Those industries contributing most to economic growth through 2015 will be manufacturing, professional services, financial services, and retail-wholesale trade.
  • Public sector investment continues to shrink in the short term, reversing the post-recession fiscal stimulus. No major investment projects are confirmed across the region in the near term, yet several potentials remain under active consideration and negotiation. The value and employment considerations of the acquisition announced in St. Thomas January 13 by Sle-co Plastics Inc. is unknown to date. General Motors Canada has announced that it will invest $250 million at its Ingersoll plant.

The London Regional Economic Overview is one of 12 similar reports produced for the various regions of the province as part of a large project supported through the Chamber network by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and The Credit Unions of Ontario. The author of our report is Helmut Pastrick, Chief Economist for Central 1 Credit Union. Mr. Pastrick is the editor of the Economic Analysis of British Columbia and the Economic Analysis of Ontario publications. In addition, he provides economic analysis and forecast services to the credit union system. Prior to joining the Central 1 Credit Union in 1997, he spent many years with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in B.C. analyzing and forecasting the provincial housing market and economy. He is former president of the Association of Professional Economists of B.C., a member of the Canadian Association for Business Economics, and the B.C. Economic Forecast Council.

This economic outlook was produced by Central 1 Credit Union. Central 1 is the central financial facility and trade association for the B.C. and Ontario credit union systems. Central 1 represents a consumer-oriented, full-service retail financial system that serves 3.2 million members and holds $91 billion in assets and is owned primarily by its member credit unions, 44 in B.C. and 96 in Ontario.

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