Ottawa, March 14, 2012 – A global commodities boom is helping to make Canada’s three northern territories economic growth leaders in the next two years. Real GDP in the three territories will collectively grow by more than seven per cent in both 2012 and 2013 – easily outpacing the Canadian average of 2.1 per cent this year, according to The Conference Board of Canada’s Territorial Outlook-Winter 2012.

“While the global economy is facing challenges that dampen the outlook for many Canadian industries and provinces, demand for metals and non-metals is expected to hold up,” said Marie-Christine Bernard, Associate Director, Forecasting and Analysis. “The immediate concern for mining industry development in Canada’s North is not so much finding a market, but rather finding the skilled workers to lead these projects forward.”

The Yukon and Nunavut economies performed well in 2011, and both territories are entering a period of sustained mining growth with several large projects proposed over the next decade. Not all projects have the green light for development, but several have made sufficient progress that they are included in the Conference Board’s forecast.

Each territory has a different demographic outlook – Nunavut, in particular, has a young population. The Northwest Territories will remain relatively young compared with the national population, but it will feel the effects of an aging community. Yukon’s population, meanwhile, is aging much more quickly than Canada’s as a whole. These demographic trends will affect service industries, such as retail and business services, as well as demand on public services, notably education and health care. They will also shape the labour market in the years to come, a development which the Centre for the North examined in its 2011 report, Building Labour Force Capacity in Canada’s North.

Nunavut has a small economy, but big growth prospects. After growing by 6.8 per cent in 2011, the territorial economy is forecast to grow by 16 per cent in 2012. Employment is expected to surge by 6.4 per cent annually over the next three years. Nunavut has a relatively youthful population – over 40 per cent of the population is younger than 20 – which will generate strong labour force growth. An ongoing challenge, however, is to bring more Nunavummiut into the mining and construction workforce.

After suffering a setback in real GDP last year due to declines in construction and in diamond production, the Northwest Territories is forecast to grow by 5.9 per cent this year. Diamond mining, by far the territory’s largest industry, should benefit from global demand that continues to surpass supply. Employment is forecast to increase by almost four per cent per year over the next two years.

Yukon’s mining boom is expected to continue throughout this decade. After an estimated gain of 8.6 per cent in 2011, real GDP is forecast to grow by 2.9 per cent this year. In the medium term, Yukon can expect strong growth in employment. This demand for workers, combined with the aging population in the territory, will make labour markets even tighter than they have been historically.

The Territorial Outlook, published twice yearly, examines the economic and fiscal outlook for each of the territories, including output by industry, labour market conditions, and the demographic make-up. This forecast is funded through the Conference Board’s Centre for the North. The Centre’s main purpose is to work with Aboriginal leaders, businesses, governments, communities, educational institutions, and other organizations to provide insights into how sustainable prosperity can be achieved in the North. Over its five-year mandate, the Centre for the North will help to establish and implement strategies, policies and practices to transform that vision into reality.

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Brent Dowdall, Media Relations,
Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext.  448