How low can we go?

Generally-speaking, we like upward trends: think of your income, career trajectory, or your favourite team's place in the league standings. Downward trends? Not so much: think of your bank balance, your health, or  the stock market. (Of course, if we're talking about the cost of living or your golf score, then downward trends sound all right.)

Three key variables reflecting, and imparting, changes in different aspects of the Canadian economy that are trending downwards are the Canadian-US dollar (CAD-USD) exchange rate; the Bank of Canada's overnight target interest rate; and the price of Western Canadian Select (WCS) oil. Today's viz shows trends in these variables over the past decade, as well as over the past 12 months.

The most innocuous of the three--if only because we've grown accustomed to its diminished level-- is the overnight target rate, which the Bank of Canada announced this past Wednesday it's holding at 0.50%. One year ago, however, the rate stood at 1.00%, and just prior to the Great Recession it reached as high as 4.50% (although this was much lower than the relatively elevated rates seen in the 1980s and 1990s).

Both the CAD-USD exchange rate and oil prices have garnered a lot of headlines over the recent past, and rightfully so: the value of the Canadian dollar fell by 12% over the course of 2015, and at the end of that year stood at 0.73USD--down from as high as 1.05USD toward the end of 2011. Oil prices, meanwhile, continue to defy expectations of a return to more moderate levels, falling 26% during 2015. This masks the 56% decline since June, as WCS fell from 51.29USD/bbl to 22.51USD/bbl by the end of the year.

A volatile year to be sure, was 2015; it will be fascinating to see where 2016 takes us.


The 60-year CAD-USD Exchange Rate Gait

Much attention has recently been paid to the falling value of the Canadian dollar (CAD). Rightfully so: as of yesterday, the value of our dollar versus the US dollar (USD) sat at just under 70 cents (69.6, to be precise). This was the lowest it had been since April 2003, having fallen by 9% in 2016 alone, and 16% since the beginning of 2015. It seems like only yesterday that the CAD was trading above par against the USD; in fact, it was last in January 2013, when the CAD-USD exchange rate was $1.01, not far off the peak of $1.04 from April 2011.

With the Bank of Canada having dropped the overnight target interest rate by 50 basis points over the past year, and the US Federal Reserve having recently increased the federal funds rate by 25 basis points (the first time it has increased in 8 years), it's not surprising that there has recently been downward pressure on the CAD. The question is: has the CAD bottomed-out, or is there room to fall further? According to Macquarie bank, it may fall as low as 59 cents by the end of 2016. If this seems far-fetched, consider that the Bank of Canada has its next rate meeting next week, and it is now widely expected that Stephen Poloz et al will cut the overnight rate by a further 25 basis points, thereby depressing the CAD from its current level.

Check out our latest viz here.   

BC with the sheen in 2016?

According to the latest estimates from TD Economics, British Columbia is expected to lead all of Canada in GDP growth in 2016, at 2.5%. This would be slightly ahead of Ontario, in second, at 2.4%, and considerably higher than the Canada-wide average of 1.7%. All other provinces are expected to see their GDP grow between by 0.6% (Alberta) and 1.7% (Quebec), while the outlook for Newfoundland is for a continued contraction in its GDP (of 0.9%, after it fell by 2.6% in 2014 and 2.1% in 2015).

While the relatively rosy outlook anticipated by TD (and others, such as RBC and the Conference Board of Canada) is predicated on BC"s economic diversity--relying on a mix of resource-, high tech-, and tradable service-based sectors--it's worth noting that 2.5% growth this year would rank below BC's average rate of GDP growth since 2010 (2.6%). It would also sit well below the heady 2002 to 2007 period when the provincial economy expanded by 3.5% per year. This trend of slowing growth is expected to continue into the future, with TD expecting 2.0% growth in BC's economy in 2017 and Urban Futures expecting GDP growth to slow over the longer-term due in large part to constraints imposed by demographic changes.

Check out our latest viz here.

Foreign Direct Investment in Canada

With there being so much discussion of the influence of foreign owners generally--and those from China specifically--on Vancouver's residential real estate market, it got us thinking about the extent to which other countries are invested in all sectors of the Canadian economy (not just real estate). This lead us to today's viz, which looks at foreign direct investment (FDI) in Canada by other countries in 2014.

(This "inward FDI" comprises the investments of individuals and firms from other countries in the financial capital--i.e. equity--of en existing company in Canada or in a new productive project in Canada.  Both types of FDI ultimately redirect profits to investors in the originating country.)

We were somewhat surprised to see that China's (stock) FDI in Canada was valued at only $25.1 billion in 2014, ranking it sixth among other countries--behind, among others, both Switzerland, which had $27.8 billion in FDI in Canada last year, and Luxembourg, at $53.6 billion. Not so surprisingly, the United States was firmly entrenched in the number one spot, with $361.4 billion in Canadian FDI, which accounted for 49% of total FDI in Canada last year.

That being said, the United States saw its Canadian FDI only rise by just under 14% between 2010 and 2014--the slowest growth among the top ten countries with the most FDI in Canada during this period (it's worth noting that France's Canadian FDI fell by 32%). Luxembourg experienced the fastest growth in FDI in Canada over this period, at 157%, followed by China at 107%. Among the remaining top ten countries, growth in Canadian FDI ranged from 14% (the UK) to 70% (Germany).




Rise of the Lone-Occupant Household

In last week's viz, we documented both the growth in the number of Canadian households and the change in our average household size between 1851 and 2011. While the Canadian population rose by an average of 1.7% annually over this protracted historical period, the number of households expended by 2.3% each year--implying a decline in the average household size. Indeed, the average number of persons per household fell from 6.2 in 1851 to 2.5 by 2011.

In this week's viz, we're building on the material we shared last week by taking a look at the size composition of households in Canada in more detail, and how that changed between 1941 and 2011. 

According to the most recent Census, more than one-third (34.1%) of households in Canada consisted of two people--a proportion greater than any other household size. Persons living alone were next, accounting for 27.6% of all households; as such, 3 out of 5 households across the country consisted of fewer than three people in 2011. This represents quite a change from 1941, when only one-quarter (24.4%) of households had either one or two persons living in them. (Interestingly, households consisting of 5 or more people were the most common of all households until 1981, when the peak of the baby boomers began to enter the housing market.) Furthermore, the share of single-person households across Canada's housing landscape easily grew the fastest over the 70-year period, as it rose four-fold during that time.

Looking forward we might expect to see more of what has characterized the recent past, with increasing life expectancies and below-replacement fertility rates yielding a rising proportion (and number) of one- and two-person households.

Growing & Shrinking Households in Canada

According to the most recent Census, there were 13.32 million households in Canada in 2011, with an average of 2.5 persons in each one.

Looking back--way back--the number of households in this country has grown exponentially, from 374,491 in 1851 to 1.06 million in 1901,  3.41 million in 1951, and 11.56 million in 2001. While the root driver to this growth has been an expanding Canadian population, the pace of population growth has lagged household growth: between 1851 and 2011, the number of households in Canada grew at an annual rate of 2.3%, while the national population grew by only 1.7% per year. 

Why the difference in growth rates? The answer lies in shrinking household sizes, which have fallen dramatically over time: compared to the current 2.5 persons per household, there were 4.0 persons per household in 1951, 5.0 in 1901, and 6.2 in 1851.

Since the mid-1940s, changes in household sizes have largely been driven by the baby boomers, first during the 20 years during which they were born (resulting in a temporary halt in the long-term downward trend in household sizes during those two decades), and then during the years in which they moved out, got married, and had (relatively few) kids of their own. Indeed, the average households size in Canada fell below 3.0 persons in 1981, where it has since remained. (It's worth noting that the rising prevalence of apartments within the Canadian housing landscape has also, more recently, played a role in the downward trend in household sizes.)

Our latest viz charts the long-terms trends in the number and average size of households in Canada. There are other stories to be uncovered in the data, so check it out and see what you find.



What's up (or down) with BC's International Migration?

Since the data were released a couple of months ago, there has been much chatter about the dip in international migration flows to British Columbia. Indeed, the most recent data show that in Q2 2015, net international migration added only 4,102 people to the province--56% below the Q2 average of 9,299 over the previous five years.

So, why the dip? It's not an increase in emigration, which has generally remained stable over the past decade (seasonal variations notwithstanding). This means the answer lies in permanent resident immigration flows or changes in the number of non-permanent residents (NPRs) in BC--or both.

In Q2 2015, 9,053 immigrants came to BC, which was down by 14% from the Q2 average of 10,545 immigrants that came to the province over the previous five years. While not entirely a case of "it's not you, it's me"--Q2 immigration to Canada as a whole was only down 5% versus the Q2 average over the preceding half-decade--BC did see a bigger dip in its most recent immigration flow in relation to the rest of Canada. Whether this is part of a longer-term trend or simply a blip on the radar remains to be seen.

The big driver to reduced net international migration to BC has been the continued net loss of NPRs: compared to an average net intake of 1,242 NPRs in Q2 between 2010 and 2014, Q2 2015 saw a net loss of 2,282 from BC. Furthermore, this was the third consecutive quarter with a net loss--the first time that has happened since the end of 1997 and into early-1998. Certainly, some proportion of these outflows can be attributed to changes in federal legislation that now serves to essentially limit NPRs' time in Canada.

Our latest viz shows quarterly trends in these three components of international migration (emigration, immigration, and NPRs) to BC over the past decade. Have a look to see if any other trends or tidbits jump out at you.

Women in Parliament

On Wednesday, Canadians watched as the latest iteration of our federal government was sworn in. And while we will undoubtedly witness, and experience the effects of, a number of policy changes in the coming days. weeks, months, and years, the most immediate change of course in relation to previous governments is the 50-50 gender split in the Liberal cabinet (15 men and 15 women).

While viewed by some as representing progress in moving towards gender equality, the number of women elected to Canada's parliament still only represents only 26% of all members (88 out of 338).

So where does this put Canada among other countries? Interestingly, not very high. This week's viz ranks the top 25 countries around the world in the proportion of seats held by women in their national parliaments in 2014 and, notably, Canada did not make this short-list. Instead, we came in at number 67 globally, with 25.1% of seats held by women in 2014; this puts us marginally ahead of Sudan (24.3%; number 70) and marginally behind Iraq (25.3%)

Within the top 25 countries, South American and African countries predominate, with Rwanda leading the way among all countries with 64% of seats held by women. 


Head Offices in Canada

This week, Statistics Canada released data from its latest Annual Head Office Survey, which sheds light on the landscape of head offices in provinces and major metropolitan regions across Canada. Our latest viz provides a visual snapshot of these data.

Overall, there were 2,773 head offices located across Canada in 2013, with almost two-thirds of these (66%) located within one of the following seven metropolitan regions: Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver.

At the metro level, it's not surprising to see Toronto with the most head offices--by a wide margin--at 702, followed by Montreal (392) and Vancouver (242), thereby rounding out the three largest metropolitan areas in the country by population. When considering the proportion of head offices that each metro region accounts for within their parent province, the top three list shakes down slightly differently. Most notably, Toronto falls out of the top three, with 64% of Ontario's head offices located there. Winnipeg leads the way at 83%, followed by Vancouver (76%) and Montreal (68%). It's worth noting that Calgary and Edmonton, each with relatively low shares of provincial head offices, together represent 84% of Alberta's head offices.

Enjoy, and have a safe and happy Halloween weekend!

Non-residential Construction Trends within BC

Here at Urban Futures, we often talk about the impact that our aging population is expected to have on our future labour force, and how in turn this may limit the capacity of our economy to grow. Of course, labour force growth isn't the only determinant of economic growth--productivity is, too, and it can be influenced by many factors, including the extent to which we are investing in the infrastructure required to keep our economic engine running efficiently.

With this in mind, and thanks to a recent data release by Statistics Canada, we're happy to bring to you our latest viz, which looks at non-residential (industrial, commercial, and institutional) construction trends within British Columbia.

Between Q1 2001 and Q3 2015, quarterly non-residential construction spending in BC as a whole (in seasonally-adjusted, current dollars) more than doubled, growing by 113% from $666,151 million to $1.42 billion. If we look at more recent history, after taking a hit during the 2008-09 recession, investment in province-wide non-residential building construction rose by 13% between Q2 2010 and Q3 2015.

All of this post-recession growth was the result of spending increases in the Lower Mainland (comprising the Vancouver and Abbotsford-Mission Census Metropolitan Areas, or CMAs); to wit, in comparison to the 45% increase in investment in non-residential building construction in this metropolitan region, spending actually declined by 45% in the Victoria CMA and by 14% in non-CMA parts of the province. This resulted in the Lower Mainland's share of provincial spending on non-residential construction rising from 55% in Q2 2010 to 67% in Q3 2015.

Going forward, it will be important for BC's resource regions (that is, those non-CMA parts of the province) to invest in new non-residential infrastructure in order to maintain our economic competitiveness in relation to other Canadian provinces and other countries. It will be interesting to see what unfolds with future data releases, so stay tuned! 




Unemployment Rates in Canada: An Interactive Tool

Statistics Canada recently released the latest data from its monthly Labour Force Survey publication, providing (almost) up-to-the-minute information on population, the labour force, employment, and unemployment for Canada and its provinces.

For us here at Urban Futures, the two data points that jumped out were the September 2015 unemployment rates for British Columbia and Alberta, with BC's unemployment rate sliding in below Alberta's for the first time in 21 years (6.3% versus 6.5%, respectively).

With this nugget serving as the impetus to this week's viz, we thought it would be useful (and fun) to provide an interactive chart that allows monthly unemployment rates to be compared among provinces (and Canada) from January 1976 to September 2015. Check it out, and see if you can dig out any other interesting tidbits.


Gobble, Gobble

Unlike turkeys, time is flying, with Thanksgiving weekend already upon us here in Canada. In looking forward to palating pounds of poultry in a couple of days, we thought it would be interesting (if not terribly insightful) to compare turkey consumption across a few selected countries.

To do this we used 2013 data from the Turkey Farmers of Canada and the World Bank, with the results somewhat surprising us. One example: would you have guessed that we're further behind Israel than Mexico is behind us, as measured by the number of kilograms of turkey we consume in a year?

Check out our latest viz here, and have a warm, safe, and enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend!

Housing Canada's Seniors

In recognition of both National Seniors day (on October 1st) and the recent release of data from Statistics Canada that show that people aged 65+ now outnumber kids under the age of 15 in Canada, we have compiled a series of long-range projections that consider the private and collective dimensions of seniors housing in Canada to 2041. You can read the full report here. These projections are companions to the ones we compiled last year, which detailed future private housing occupancy demand in Canada and its major metropolitan region to 2041. (Those projections can be found here.)

While baby boomers have had a significant impact on Canada’s private housing market since they began to enter it more than four decades ago, long and increasing life expectancies will see them continue to dominate Canada’s private housing markets for years to come. That said, with the leading edge of the baby boom turning 70 next year, a growing number of seniors are able and willing to remain in private accommodation for longer periods of time. This will increasingly require that communities, service providers, planners, and developers bring to private housing some of the attributes traditionally associated with "collective" forms of accommodation (think nursing homes and seniors' residences).

Speaking of which, the aging of the baby boom cohort will also bring about significant changes to collective housing occupancy. As increasing disability-free life expectancies and a decline in the gap between male and female life expectancies may result in a movement away from collective forms of housing for many of Canada’s youngest seniors, these forms of accommodation will become more important for accommodating Canada’s oldest residents.

Regardless of age, however, a seniors population that is expected to grow by 4.9 million people by 2041 will result in growing and changing demand for all types of seniors accommodation in the coming years. We hope you enjoy our latest report.

Busters are the new Boomers (and other interesting tidbits from the latest population data release)

Earlier this week, Statistics Canada released its 2015 estimates of population for Canada and its provinces and territories. In light of this, we have put together a series of thematic maps to illustrate how Canada's population is growing and changing. Some of the highlights from the release include:

  • Canada’s population grew faster than any other G7 country's over the past year. Between 2014 and 2015, Canada added 308,116 net new residents and grew by 0.9%. While this growth rate was slower than the 1.1% seen in the previous year and the 1.0% seen over the past two decades, our national population posted the fastest growth among G7 countries.
  • Alberta recorded the fastest population growth among provinces. While falling slightly behind Nunavut’s 2.3% growth over the past year, and in spite of dramatically lowered oil prices, Alberta still managed to post the fastest growth among Canadian provinces, at 1.8%. Conversely, Newfoundland and New  Brunswick each saw their populations decline, by 0.2% and 0.1%, respectively.
  • Almost 9-in-10 Canadians live in four provinces in 2015. 86% of the Canadian population is concentrated in four provinces: Ontario (38%), Quebec (23%), British Columbia (13%), and Alberta (12%). 
  • For the 43rd consecutive year, Canada's median age increased. The median age in Canada is currently 40.5 years, making us older (and wiser?) than in the mid-1990s when our median age was 34.4 years, and in the early-1970s when our median age was 26.2 years. New Brunswick has the highest median age in the country, at 44.8 years, while the Northwest Territories is the youngest, at 25.8.
  • Make way for Grandma, kiddies. For the first time in our history, Canada’s seniors population (those aged 65+) outnumbers children (those under 15). The Canada-wide ratio of seniors to children now sits at 1.01, with Nova Scotia posting the highest senior-to-child ratio within Canada at 1.35, and Nunavut the lowest ratio, at 0.12.
  • Busters are the new Boomers. Another demographic milestone that has recently been attained is Canada's Buster generation (those aged 30 to 49) now outnumbering the Boomers (aged 50 to 69): today, there are 9.69 million Busters versus 9.51 million Boomers. While the Boomers are still more prevalent in BC, the Atlantic provinces, and Quebec, the Busters outnumber the Boomers in Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and in each of the territories.

Emissions Admissions

In case you haven't been keeping up on the news, Volkswagen is currently in deep diesel,  accused as they are of putting software into their diesel vehicles that is designed to fake the results of emissions tests. This got us thinking: where does Volkswagen rank among other automakers in their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions? Not necessarily only wanting to focus on Volkswagen (if the accusations are true, they HAVE been fudging their emissions results, after all), this week's viz ranks major car manufacturers by the average amount of CO2 their vehicles emit per kilometre travelled, and how that's changed over the recent past.

In 2013, Renault vehicles had the lowest CO2 emissions per kilometre (in Europe, as the data are from the European Environment Agency) at 110 grams, followed by Peugeot at 115 g/km. Fiat, Toyota, and Cetroen followed closely behind each recording average CO2 emissions of 116 g/km. In emitting 182 grams of CO2/km, the Jaguar Land Rover had far and away the highest emissions level among the largest car manufacturers in Europe. 

Between 2009 to 2013, Volvo and Renault led the pack in reducing their emissions by 24% and 20%, respectively. General Motors achieved the smallest reduction in relative terms, at 7%.

Running out of gas? BBQ shipments in North America

As the summer draws to a close, so too does BBQ season. With this in mind, this week's viz takes a look at trends in BBQ shipments (sales) over the past three decades in North America.

Viewed over the entirety of the 1985 to 2013 period for which data are available, the BBQ market--including charcoal, gas, and electric units--demonstrated seemingly healthy growth, with shipments increasing by 25% over 28 years. That said, as with most other consumer product markets, the period was characterized by ups and downs, with the total number of shipments actually peaking in 2008 at 17.4 million units. The number of shipments dropped sharply during the recession in 2009 and then continued to slide from there, sinking to 13.9 million in 2013. 

When shipments are adjusted for population, a different perspective emerges, with the annual number of BBQ shipments per 1,000 people in North America actually falling between 1995 and 2013--from 42 to 40. More marked was the drop in per capita BBQ shipments since the mid-2000s, having fallen by 23 percent from 52 shipments per 1,000 people in 2006.

Why the recent decline in BBQ shipments, or the longer-term decline in the per capita rate? it could be the result of many factors, ranging from the rising cost of meat to BBQ market saturation. If it's the latter, we trust you already own a BBQ--so don't forget to take advantage of last remnants of BBQ season.


Ready. Set. Hike! Tuition Costs in Canada

Accompanying the beginning of a new NFL season and the commencement of a new school year is the latest edition of Statistics Canada's tuition costs data, which was released this past Wednesday. As this week’s viz shows, it is estimated that each Canadian undergraduate student will pay an average of $6,191 in tuition fees for the current school year, up from $4,400 in 2006/07. This represents a 41% ($1,791) increase.

Within Canada, average Canadian undergraduate tuition fees vary considerably, from a low of under $3,000 in two provinces ($2,660 in Newfoundland and $2,799 in Quebec) to a high of $7,868 in Ontario—the only province with average tuition fees that are above the $7,000 threshold.

Ontario has gotten itself to this point because tuition has increased by 53% since the 2006/07 school year—faster than in any other Canadian province. Incidentally, Quebec has experienced the second-fastest increase in average tuition costs, at 45%, followed by the 44% increase in Saskatchewan. At the other end of the spectrum, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland experienced the most minimal increases in average Canadian undergraduate tuition fees between 2006/07 and 2015/16, at six percent and one percent, respectively.

Our readers on the West Coast might be interested to know that students in BC don’t fare too badly when it comes to tuition fees, with British Columbia ranking 7th (out of ten provinces) in its average undergraduate tuition costs for Canadian students in 2015/16 ($5,305), and 8th in tuition inflation between 2006/07 and 2015/16 (12%).

In addition to these tuition data, Statistics Canada has published a lot more, so click here to visit their website for additional information on tuition costs for international students, graduate students, and various fields of study. Enjoy!

Statcan's Profession: We're in a Recession

"It's a recession when your neighbour loses his job; it's a depression when you lose yours." Many of you will recognize this popular quote from Harry Truman, which aptly speaks to our collective aloofness in the face of new economic data or updates on the state of our economy.

Indeed, this may be  how many of us felt when, just this week, Statistics Canada informed us that the country is, in fact, in a recession. Because a recession is technically defined as two consecutive quarters of GDP declines--regardless of how moderate the declines, or what the underlying causes, are--the mere acknowledgement of a recession does not imply that a specific, or significant, proportion of our economy or population is being impacted. To wit, despite  a 0.1% dip in Canada's GDP in the second quarter (April to June) of 2015, which followed on the heels of a 0.2% drop in Q1 (January to March), Canadian employment has actually continued to grow, rising by a total of 0.5% over the first six months of this year. 

The current recession is our first since the Great Recession of late-2008 and early-2009, when the collapse of the US housing market and the general chaos in international credit markets lead to recessions in most developed countries around the world. Here in Canada, we experienced three consecutive quarters of GDP declines during that time, with our economy shrinking by a total of 4.2% over nine months. Unlike the current recession, employment took a significant hit during that period, falling by 2.3% and not recovering to pre-recession levels until Q4 2010. 

We have to go much further back in time if we want to consider earlier recessions: prior to the credit crunch-induced recession of 2008/9, Canada's previous recession lasted from late-1990 through to early-1991, during which time employment fell by 2.5%. Before this, Canada's economy was in a prolonged recession from mid-1981 through the end of 1982, with GDP shrinking by 5.1% and employment contracting by 5.3% during that period.

What do these experiences tell us about the impact that Canada's current recession is having/will have on Canadians generally, and on employment levels more specifically? The short answer is that they don't tell us much--yet. While many economists are predicting Canadian GDP will return to growth in Q3, it remains to be seen how employment levels across the country will be impacted throughout the remainder of the year. For that, you'll have to stay tuned!

You can view our latest viz that shows quarterly GDP and employment levels in Canada back to 1981 here.


I'm sorry, but...we're just not working out

A study released earlier this week by Statistics Canada caught some people by surprise, revealing that 13 percent of children between the ages of three and 19 years were obese--the highest level ever recorded in this country.

For this week's viz, we've decided to build on this, drawing from recent (2010) data from the World Health Organization (WHO) on physical activity. These data show that almost one-quarter (23 percent) of Canadian adults do not undertake a sufficient amount of physical activity, as measured by the failure to attain 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.

Overall, Canada is in the middle of the pack when our activity levels are compared to other countries, as we rank 82 out of 146 countries in the proportion of adults not attaining 150 minutes of physical activity each week.

At the top of this ignominious list is the Cook Islands, with almost two-thirds (65 percent) of its adult population not exercising enough. This is followed by Colombia (64 percent), Saudi Arabia (61 percent), and Kuwait (57 percent). Conversely, Nepal is last in these rankings, with only four percent of its adult population getting fewer than 150 minutes of physical activity each week. The data also reveal a distinct male-female divide, with a greater proportion of females being insufficiently active when compared to their male counterparts. For example, here in Canada, while 1 out of 5 males fail to attain the 150-minute threshold on a weekly basis, the ratio is 1 out of 4 for females 

It's interesting stuff and we hope you enjoy this week's viz--just make sure you don't sit behind your computer all day!


Overnighting in the USA

In this week's viz, we're sharing the latest travel data that has just been published this week by Statistics Canada, running back to 1972 on a monthly basis. We've decided to focus on Canadians making overnight trips to the US, as these trips represent 91% of all overnight trips Canadians make abroad.

Since 1972, Canadians have averaged 3.73 million overnight trips to the US each month, with the latest data (for June 2015), slightly exceeding this, at 3.84 million. As averages are wont to do, this singular statistic masks an enormous amount of variation in the data.  For example, February 1992 saw more Canadians overnight in the US than any other month for which data have been recorded (7.13 million people), while the lowest Canada-to-US travel month was May 1974 (only 2.36 million people).

Since the early-1990s the pattern in Canadians' overnight-tripping to the US has largely followed trends in the Canadian-US dollar exchange rate, with rises in the exchange rate (indicating a cheaper US dollar) coinciding with increasing travel volumes; similarly, declines in the exchange rate--as seen through the 1990s and then again more recently--have been accompanied by falling travel volumes. Interesting, this relationship doesn't appear to hold during the pre-1990 period.

Of course, changes in the exchange rate don't, on their own, explain all the movement in travel volumes, with overnight travel from Canada to the US falling by 23 percent in the month following the September 11th attacks in New York and Washington (to 2.50 million trips in October 2001), and travel spiking--to 7.13 million trips in February 1992--not long after the introduction of GST in Canada.