BC Stats just released (PDF) its quarterly population estimates and BC is what we would term "sluggish" in terms of population growth.
Population growth consists of the following bulk components:
- Natural increase (births - deaths)
- Net interprovincial migration
- Net international migration
So let's look at how Q4-2010 and Q1-2011 look in a historical context (there is seasonality so quarters are best compared to each other):
The most recent Q1-2011 data indicate the lowest Q1 immigration numbers in 19 years, zero net interprovincial migration, and below-trend non-permanent resident (NPR) in-migration. Q4-2010 saw a net outflow of non-permanent residents of 7,353, who were migrating into the province in the order of 10,000 to 17,000 annually from 2007 to 2009. Now that unemployment has remained elevated for over 2 years, there is, unsurprisingly, pressure to employ local residents; as fallout from this, non-permanent residents have been sent packing.
We can also look at annual population growth to 2010:
In total, 2010 was not a strong year for population growth but nowhere as dire as the low growth witnessed in the late 1990s. We are hearing anecdotes of a weak rental market and these data would suggest that weak population growth in Q4-2010 has extended into Q1-2011 are consistent with a reduced demand for dwelling tenancy. These recent population data are what I would characterise as a somewhat bearish indicator for BC real estate.