May 11, 2012- 4:26 PM
Economy has been this good ‘in my 25 years here,’ LU prof says
By: Darren MacDonald – Sudbury Northern Life
In his 25 years of living in Sudbury, Laurentian University economics professor David Robinson says he’s never been more optimistic about Sudbury’s economy or the jobs picture.
Sudbury’s thriving economy has been creating about 200 jobs a month over the last little while, according to figures released Friday by Statistics Canada.
While our jobless rate stayed at 7.2 per cent, the number of net new jobs in the city grew. The number of people looking for work also grew, however, offsetting the growth in employment. That’s also good news, however, since it suggests growing confidence in the local economy and its long-term prospects.
“The trend over four months suggest strong gains in employment — from an average loss of 1,000 per month to an average gain of 200,” Robinson said in his monthly analysis of Sudbury’s jobs figures. “The longer-term pattern looks positive and we expect another positive showing next month.”
That long-term picture includes the opening of the downtown school of architecture slated for next year, and the announcement this week that Cliffs Natural Resources will build a $1.8-billion smelter near Capreol, creating 450 construction and 450 permanent jobs. Added to that are the benefits from Vale’s $2-billion investment in its Clean AER Project, one of the largest environmental investments in Ontario’s history.
Robinson said it will be a while before the full benefit of those projects are felt, but he expects the home construction industry will be the first industry to benefit.
“Before anything else, I think you’ll see a pick up in the housing market,” he said. “You’ll see prices going higher as people believe that demand for housing is going to grow.”
The smelter project, for example, will employ 450, which translates roughly into 600- 800 people (including family members) who will need a place to live. In turn, that will create a demand for 300-400 houses over the next four years, and the local home building industry will have to ramp up construction to meet the new demand.
“That is way more than doubling the demand for housing that we have had over the last five years,” Robinson said. ‘I would expect to see a lot of interest among developers in building houses on spec.
“Hotels should also be busy, as people come to town to begin the planning process for those projects, doing the surveying and the environmental assessments and so forth,” he said. “So there will be a lot of added pressure on hotels to accommodate them this summer.”
Once the actual contracts are issued and building begins on the smelter, the architecture school and the Vale AER project, Robinson said the spectre of labour shortages are a real possibility.
“If you were a young person in high school, you would be very smart to consider a job at Vale or at the smelter,” he said, especially since overseas demand for nickel remains strong and jobs at the new smelter should last for the next few decades.
“This is an awfully good time for Sudbury,” he said. “I haven’t seen it look this good in my 25 years here. I think we’re looking at at least another 20 years of being able to build a city and build a community.”