Regina's job market Canada's 'most attractive'

By Bruce Johnstone, Leader-Post November 22, 2013 - Regina has the most attractive job market in Canada, thanks to a winning combination of high incomes, low unemployment, competitive tax rates and relatively affordable housing, according to the Bank of Montreal (BMO). "In terms of attractiveness as a place to move for work, Regina and Calgary top the list, with the highest median levels of employment income, low jobless rates and relatively low tax burdens,'' said the BMO labour market report, which was officially released Thursday. "However, Regina's much better housing affordability lifts the city into the top spot.''

In fact, the two major cities in Saskatchewan and Alberta swept the top four spots on BMO's ranking of labour market attractiveness, with Regina, Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon ranked first, second, third and fourth respectively.

Robert Kavcic, senior economist with BMO Capital Markets and author of the report, wasn't surprised by the high ranking achieved by the four Prairie cities. "I was expecting the four Alberta and Saskatchewan cities to be in the top four, given the positive economic trends we're seeing in that part of the country,'' Kavcic said in an interview Thursday.

"It was a toss-up in my mind between Calgary and Regina and, at the end of the day, it's really (Regina's) housing affordability that stands out.''

With median employment income of $70,500, Regina ranked third behind firstplace Ottawa at $82,300 and second-place Calgary at $79,300, but ahead of Hamilton at $69,900, Toronto at $68,700, Edmonton at $68,200 and Saskatoon at $66,700. But Regina had by far the lowest jobless rate of 3.5 per cent for the year to date, followed by Saskatoon at 4.3 per cent, Edmonton and Quebec City at 4.7 per cent and Calgary at 4.9 per cent.

For job growth, Regina placed second only to Saskatoon (six per cent versus 6.9 per cent), but with its lower average house price of $311,400 (versus the national average of $377,600), the Queen City was a lock on first place.

"The jobless rate is quite a bit lower and job growth is a little bit better (than the national average),'' Kavcic said.

With income taxes at 13 per cent (marginal rate at median income level) and combined sales tax of 10 per cent, Regina performed slightly better than the national average of 12.1 per cent for both income and sales tax rates.

Kavcic says the survey shows Regina is the place to be "if you're somebody in Canada either looking for a job, ... or a higher-paying job.'' It also shows that "it's actually worth moving there, based on the tax burden and what you're going to have to pay to live there."

John Hopkins, CEO of the Regina & District Chamber of Commerce, said the results of the BMO survey "are really not all that surprising given Regina is the 'land of opportunity' and will be for the foreseeable future."

Regina used to tout its "lowest cost of living as our selling feature, but we really did not have the career opportunities to attract people to come," Hopkins added. "Now people are coming, not only from coast to coast to coast, but also from all corners of the globe, because of the opportunities that abound."

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