"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Friday, August 09, 2013

About that population strategy

The latest shuffling of the deck chairs takes Ross Reid out of his full(ish) time responsibility for Our Dear Population Strategy and into the Premier's office, a move which the Premier says won't hurt Our Dear Focus on Strategic Population. The CBC reports:
Dunderdale says Reid will continue to head the program, in addition to his new job as her chief of staff. 
"The strategy continues — we'll move it into executive council. Population growth is extremely important to us," the premier said. 
The strategy is designed to figure out a way to reverse the declining population of the province and bring more young families in. 
"We're finally seeing numbers move in a positive direction, but we have a long way to go. And if we're going to prosper as a province, our birth rate has to go up, we have to do more immigration," Dunderdale said.
It's unclear which numbers are moving in a "positive direction". In terms of natural demography — births and deaths — Newfoundland and Labrador is on the edge of a demographic precipice, with the rate of deaths about to start exceeding the replacement value of births.

This chart shows the birth and death numbers as the trailing sum of the preceding four quarters over the past decade or so, up to and including the first quarter of 2013. (Annualizing the data this way serves to smooth out the significant seasonality in birth and death figures, which would otherwise mask the longer-term trends.)

The eagle-eyed may note the uptick in the number of births starting in 2007 or 2008, and think "aha! Progressive Conservative Family Growth Benefit!"

Not so fast, pronatalists: the uptick actually began before the DannyDollars program rolled out, and both the uptick, and the subsequent plateau and decline in births, are consistent with Atlantic-wide demographic trends. This chart shows the comparative change in the number of births for the three largest Atlantic provinces, indexed to 2004 values. The trends in all three provinces follow similar lines and are nearly synchronous:

On the interprovincial migration front, outmigration has fallen in the past year, which might be a positive demographic and economic indicator. However, there is little sign of an increase in interprovincial in-migration, which is unusual behavior for an economy that is supposedly booming and suffering a labour shortage. In-migration rates were higher in 2008-2009, which is a typical pattern for Newfoundland and Labrador whenever there is, as there then was, a North American recession. (As above, this chart shows four-quarter rolling sums, not individual quarterly figures.)
The curious lack of evidence of economic and demographic attraction is also borne out in the international immigration figures. Not only does international immigration (including returning emigrants) show little sign of the increase that  you'd expect of a booming economy, lousy with "world-class" energy megaprojects, the most recent figures show a noticeable down-tick. The annual sum for the most recent quarter is the lowest in three years. (The raw quarterly immigration figure for 2013 Q1 is the lowest in a decade.)

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