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Slow growth predicted for Abbotsford in 2012

Abbotsford can expect only limited growth in the coming year, that's according to Helmut Pastrick, chief economist for Central 1 Credit Union.

With council beginning budget deliberations, Pastrick was brought in Monday night to give his expert opinion on what lies ahead for the city, province and beyond.

He said stats show Abbotsford's 2011 employment number were down about 3 1/2 per cent.

"2011 was not a good year ... employment fell in 2011, the unemployment rate went up to about nine per cent."

He noted the figures are from Statistics Canada and based on the Abbotsford/Mission Census Metropolitan Area (CMA). Abbotsford accounts for about 80 per cent of the CMA.

Goods producing services – agriculture, construction, manufacturing  – saw a "bit of a down performance" in Abbotsford in 2011. In the service industry, the larger sector of the economy, there was also a decline.

Population growth has also slowed in Abbotsford. In 2010 it was down to 1.4 per cent growth.

"If I were to estimate the number for 2012 ... I'd probably put it down to 1.2 per cent.

It's a similar story in the rest of the province.

"Job growth in B.C. hasn't been very good this year, less than one per cent as a whole ... I put growth at somewhere around two per cent for B.C. So a rather mediocre performance."

He said much of the job growth was in Metro Vancouver, rather than the Fraser Valley.

He also predicted that the Bank of Canada, which kept its target interest rate at one per cent during its last meeting in December, would "remain on the sideline" until the spring of 2013.

"I do expect rates to increase in 2013 ... when we see better economic growth play out in the U.S. and over to Canada, then the Bank of Canada will begin to make its first move towards a more normal level of interest rates."

Most economists do expect a pick up of growth in the U.S. over the coming years said Pastrick.

"There is a lot of pent up demand in the U.S. economy, particularly on the part of consumers."

On a world-wide scale, Pastrick expects a slow to moderate growth scenario.

"The global economy, of course, is in a slow patch. We see many problems, particularly eminatimg out of Europe."

But there is potential for recovery in the future.

"I would say Abbotsford's long-term growth, in my view, is positive. If we look back at Abbotsford in the last two or three decades, growth has outpaced most municipalities in the Lower Mainland ... Certainly there is an ebb and flow to economic activity and we are currently in one of those ebb periods."

He said once surrounding economies pick up, Abbotsford will be carried along, resulting in better economci numbers.

"If I had to predict for the next 10 years, I think Abbotsford would out perform the region as a whole."

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