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Business council downgrades B.C.’s economic forecast

BCBC points to “extreme economic challenges facing forestry” and “essentially flat” retail sales over the past two years as two leading factors
Forestry cuts
Declines in forestry are cause for concern, according to the Business Council of B.C.'s latest forecast

Expect the B.C. economy to ease off the gas pedal this year a little more than what was originally expected.

The Business Council of B.C. (BCBC) has downgraded its forecast for province’s economy by two ticks with real GDP growth now expected to expand by two per cent in 2020.

In its latest outlook, released February 5, the BCBC pointed to “extreme economic challenges facing forestry” and “essentially flat” retail sales over the past two years as two of the leading factors in the downgrade.

Job growth has also softened over the past year, with the province posting losses the past six out of seven months.

The unemployment rate stands at 4.8 per cent as of December — the lowest in Canada — ahead of January job numbers expected to be released Friday (February 7).

But the BCBC expects the jobless rate to increase to 4.9 per cent in 2020.

Ken Peacock, the council’s chief economist, said external factors have continued to play a role in the economic slowdown since the BCBC’s last outlook.

 “B.C.’s exports have declined, and the residential housing sector continues to adjust to policy changes in Canada and China over the last few years. We see growth in several sectors, but overall we look for softer growth in 2020,” he said in a statement.

While forestry represents the province’s leading export industry, it’s currently dealing with ongoing labour disputes, mill closures and a steep decline in jobs.

The council acknowledged that the partial resolution of the U.S.-China trade conflict is positive for global trade and Canada, but it would likely not have a notable impact on B.C. exporters in the near-term.

International merchandise exports fell 6.7 per cent through the first 11 months of last year.

But the council pointed to some bright spots for the economy, noting that the film and TV sector have grown at a “head-spinning clip” of 27 per cent from 2015-18 (an average annual rate).

The BCBC also highlighted growth in the tech sector as more U.S. companies set up shop in the province, as well as expansion within professional, scientific and technical services.