Nanaimo Quarterly Economic Update
Q1 2015

A look at the Nanaimo economic conditions,
January to March 2015. Author: Amrit Manhas, Economic Development Officer


(Source: Statistics Canada Labour force survey - Nanaimo Unemployment Rate is for Jan 2015)

The three month moving average (3MMA) for Nanaimo was not reported in March or February of 2015 as the estimates were suppressed because they were below the confidentiality threshold.  The confidentiality threshold for Nanaimo is 1,500.  Given that the Labour force survey is a sample survey, estimates relating to very specific, detailed geographic areas, are subject to higher variability due to small sample size. As a result, the figures reported above for first quarter 2015 Nanaimo region are January 2015 3MMA.

There were 45,000 persons employed in the Nanaimo region in first quarter  2015, which is down 4,100 persons from first quarter 2014.  In total, 46,500 people were in the labour force in first quarter 2015, compared to 51,500 in first quarter 2014. The unemployment rate for Nanaimo region was 3.2% (January 2015). BC reported an unemployment rate of 6.3% and Canada 7.2% while Vancouver Island average was 6.1% for first quarter 2015.  
In BC, full-time jobs declined by 5,700 in March, while part-time employment was up 11,300 jobs.

Residential Real Estate

(Source: Vancouver Island Real Estate Board; Canada Real Estate Association)

In March 2015, the average resale price of a single family home increased by 5% ($375,884) compared to March 2014 ($356,483). Homes listed for sale increased by 3% as did units sold. Lots listed for sale decreased by 23%, while sales increased by 51% above March 2014 levels.  Prices for lots increased by 2% in the twelve month period between March 2015 and March 2014.  The number of Condo (apt) units listed for sale increased by 8%, and sales increased by 20%, while the average price decreased by 5%.  Patio style condo listings increased by 3% and units sold decreased by 7% while prices per unit remained virtually the same. Condo (townhouse) listings decreased by 18%, and sales increased by 4%, while average price increased by 3%. 
With the exception of Condo (apt.) style, virtually every other type of accommodation increased in average price between 2014 and 2015. (note: all statistics are an average of 12 months-to-date).

Housing Construction

(Source: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, latest data available)
There were 218 housing starts in Nanaimo in the fourth quarter of 2014, which is an increase of 72% from the same quarter in 2013. In the fourth quarter of 2014, 79% more single-family homes were built compared to the fourth quarter 2013.  Semi and row housing build increased by 83% in the fourth quarter comparisons while Apartment and other type increased by 57%. 

In 2014, 318 single family dwellings were built and 347 were multi family dwellings.  In 2015, the single family housing construction is predicted to decrease by 2.5% (8 units) and multiple dwellings to decrease by 2% (7 Units).  Overall new housing construction in 2015 is estimated to decrease by 2.3% over 2014 levels.  The forecast for 2016 is 320 single family homes and 380 for multiple units.  This will be an increase of 7.7% over 2015 levels.  CMHC forecasts 320 single family homes and 380 multiple units for 2016 for a total of 700 units for 2016. 

Housing starts for BC are forecast to total 28,300 homes in 2015 and 29,000 homes in 2016.  As of CMHC's latest  forecast,  BC economy is forecast to expand by 2.8% in 2015 and 2.9% in 2016.  An increase in wages and salaries in 2014 will support growth in consumer spending on goods and services in the year ahead.  The expected growth in US economy, coupled with a lower Canadian dollar will help grow BC exports.  Employment growth is forecast to pick up during 2015 and 2016, compared to 2014.  Population is projected to grow just over one percent per year, net interprovincial migration turned positive in the first half of 2014.  This trend is expected to continue during the 2014-2016 forecast period.


Rental Market

 (Source: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation)

Rental vacancy rate edged lower in the October 2014 survey.  The Apartment vacancy rate was 4.4% compared to 5.3% in October 2013.   Apartment vacancy rates in Nanaimo were lower across all bedroom types.  Larger apartment units (those with two or more bedrooms, or three or more bedrooms) generally had higher vacancy rates than units with fewer bedrooms (bachelor and one-bedroom units).  Average rents increased in virtually every category for both private apartments and row housing types with the exception of bachelor type accommodation. During the twelve month period between fall 2013 and 2014 the number of total apartment units available for rent decreased from 3,544 to 3,530 as did the number of row housing units from 220 to 212.
(Source: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation)

The most recent Census (2011) indicated that 26% of Nanaimo residents rent the dwelling they live in, while 74% own their home.  

The rental vacancy rate declined from 5.3% in the fall of 2013 to 4.4% in the fall of 2014.  In the spring of 2014 the vacancy rate was 5.3% compared to 8.3% in the spring of 2013.

Seniors' Housing

In Nanaimo as with the rest of the province the demand for seniors' housing outpaced the additional supply pushing average rents upwards and vacancy rates downwards.  Increased demand for seniors' housing tipped vacancy rates for independent living suites lower to 9.6% in 2014, compared to 11.0% in 2013.  The monthly average rent for independent living suites was $2,650 in 2014, up 3.1% from a year earlier.  Bachelor type of accommodation was the only exception with vacancy rate increasing by 5.9 percentage points in 2014, and rent decreasing by 3.9% in comparison to 2013.   Seniors' housing vacancy rate has dropped significantly from 2012 (18.2%) to 2014 (9.6%).

Building Permits

(Source: City of Nanaimo)
The City of Nanaimo issued 245 building permits valued at $32.3 million in the first quarter of 2015. The value of permits issued decreased by $5.7 million in the first quarter 2015 from fourth quarter 2014. In comparison to first quarter 2014 building permit values in first quarter 2015 decreased by 42%.
92% of the building permit value in Q1 2015 is for residential construction.  6% of total value was for commercial projects, followed by 1.6% for Public and less than 1% for Industrial and miscellaneous permits. In Q1 2014, residential projects accounted for 60.62% of total building permit values followed by 26.91% for commercial units.

Business Licenses

(Source: City of Nanaimo)

In the first quarter of 2015, 177 new businesses obtained a City of Nanaimo business license. This is a 2.7% decrease from the same quarter in 2014.  It is a 15% increase from the fourth quarter in 2014.

Tourism Indicators/Passenger Volumes

(Source: Nanaimo Airport)
60, 361 passengers moved through the Nanaimo Airport in the first quarter of 2015.   This is an increase of 10% from the first quarter of 2014. Overall traffic through the Vancouver International Airport was up 8.1% in March 2015 compared to 2014. Year-to-date passenger traffic through the Nanaimo airport is 10% higher in 2015 compared to one year ago.
(Source: BC Ferries Corporation)
The amount of vehicle traffic between Departure Bay and Horshoe Bay increased by 2.17% (4,592) in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same quarter in 2014.  Passenger volumes also increased by 0.10% (603) on this route.  Vehicle traffic between Tsawwassen and Duke Point increased by 6.38% (7,392) in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same quarter in 2014.  Passenger volumes increased by 4.53% on this route (11,234). 
(Source: Chemistry Consulting Group, Vancouver Island Conference Centre, Tourism Nanaimo)
Average occupancy reported by the accommodation sector was 14.68% higher in March 2015 compared to March 2014.  Average daily room rates increased by $6.98 year-over-year during the month of March.  Revenue available per room increased by $19.83 in March 2015.  
Year to date overall occupancy was up by 7.77% in 2015 compared to 2014.  Nanaimo's room rate average increased by $5.84 in 2015, while overall revenue available per room increased by $11.13, due to higher occupancy and higher room rates.

The number of visitors coming into Tourism Information centers'to obtain information on the region decreased by 25.46% in the first quarter of 2015 over first quarter 2014.  Overall visitor volumes for 2015 are 25.46% below those of 2014.  The Vancouver Island Conference centre reported 400 delegate days in the first quarter of 2015 compared to none in the same quarter in 2014.