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Caution and patience as we look ahead


The latest employment numbers coupled with the September reports from the Toronto and Vancouver real estate boards have triggered a lot of optimism about Canada’s economic recovery and the state of the housing market.


Statistics Canada reports the economy added 378,000 jobs in September, and the unemployment rate dropped to 9%.  Toronto realtors posted a record breaking 11,083 sales last month, up 42% from a year earlier.  The benchmark price rose 14%, y-o-y.  Vancouver had its best September ever: 3,643 sales, up more than 56% y-o-y.  The benchmark price rose nearly 6%.


All of these numbers continue to defy expectations and so caution and patience need to be the guiding principles as we try to figure out what will happen next.


The employment numbers – which are a key indicator of economic health – surely got a boost with the reopening of schools.  Parents who had been staying home to look after their kids became available for work again.  But many are not back to full employment.  The number of mothers working less than half their usual hours was 70% higher last month than before the shutdowns.  For working-fathers the number is 23% higher.  Overall, employment is still 25% lower than it was before the pandemic.  And many of those jobs will not be coming back.


Further job growth remains in jeopardy as the two, biggest jurisdictions in the country, Ontario and Quebec, re-introduce closures and restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19.


At the same time, signals from the housing sector are mixed.  Realtors continue to forecast rising sales and prices.  But the market is imbalanced.  Most of the gains are coming in “ground-oriented” units – singles, semis and townhouses.  Condos are seeing significantly smaller increases.


Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation continues to forecast that price declines, in the 10% area, will start showing up sometime around the middle of next year.  Moody’s Analytics predicts a national “peak-to-trough” price decline of 7%.  Both reports cite employment shortfalls, reduced immigration and increasing loan delinquencies.

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