Bank of Canada Interest Rate Announcement – January, 2021

The Bank of Canada maintained its overnight rate at 0.25 per cent this morning, a level it considers its effective lower bound. The Bank reiterated what it calls “extraordinary forward guidance” in committing to leaving the overnight rate at 0.25 per cent until slack in the economy is absorbed and inflation sustainably returns to its 2 per cent target. The Bank projects that will not occur until 2023. The Bank is also continuing its quantitative easing (QE) program, purchasing at least $4 billion of Government of Canada bonds per week. In the statement accompanying the decision, the Bank noted that the economic recovery has been interrupted by the second wave of COVID-19, but the arrival of effective vaccines has boosted the medium-term outlook for economic growth. The Bank expects the Canadian economy will grow 4 per cent in 2021 and 5 per cent in 2022.

The restrictions in place to mitigate the impact of the second wave of COVID-19 mean that the economy is likely going to get off to a slow start in 2021. However, as vaccinations accelerate in coming months, the Canadian economic recovery will gain steam in the second half of 2021. Depending on the strength of the recovery, we may see the Bank taper its purchases of government bonds in 2022, which could put moderate upward pressure on 5-year fixed mortgage rates. However, that still means the current extremely low interest rate environment will be around for quite some time.

For more information, please contact: Gino Pezzani.

Canadian Housing Starts (Dec) – January, 2021

Canadian housing starts decreased by 12.6% m/m to 228,279 units in December at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR), following a strong increase of 14% in the previous month. Housing starts decreased in 8 of 10 provinces with the largest decline in Manitoba (-40.5%). Building activity declined in both the single-detached (-6.2%) and multi-unit (-15.5%) segments. Despite December’s decline, housing starts finished 2020 higher than the previous year. Also, the six-month moving average was still a robust 239,052 units SAAR.

In BC, housing starts decreased by 12.1% m/m to 43,602 units SAAR in December, following a strong increase of 51% in November. Building activity was down by 15.7% in the multi-unit segment, while single-detached starts were up by 1.5%. The decline in the multi-unit segment was led by Vancouver.

The pullback in December was not unexpected as tighter COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. We can still expect housing activity to be supported by strong demand and historically low borrowing rates. The value of BC residential building permits was up by 22% in November with a strong increase in the multi-unit segment, which will contribute positively to economic growth. Compared to the same time last year, housing starts were up by 1.2% in BC.

For more information, please contact: Gino Pezzani.


Strong December Home Sales Close Out an Unprecedented Year

Vancouver, BC – January, 2021. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that a total of 93,953 residential unit sales were recorded by the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in 2020, an increase of 21.5 per cent from the 77,350 units sold in 2019. The annual average MLS® residential price in BC was $782,027, an 11.7 per cent increase from $700,369 recorded the previous year. Total sales dollar volume was $73.5 billion, a 35.6 per cent increase from 2019.

“Housing markets across the province staged a remarkable recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic and recession,” said BCREA Chief Economist Brendon Ogmundson. “We expect considerable momentum heading into 2021.”

A total of 8,268 MLS® residential unit sales were recorded across the province in December, a record for the month and up 57.8 per cent from December 2019. The average MLS® residential price in BC was $847,600, an increase of 12.5 per cent from December 2019. Total sales dollar volume was $7 billion, a 77.5 per cent increase year-over-year.

“While 2021 is expected to get off to a roaring start, the level of supply in the market is near a record low,” added Ogmundson. “That will likely translate to considerable pressure on prices until listings pick-up.”

Total active residential listings were down 16.1 per cent to 20,725 units in December.

For more information, please contact: Gino Pezzani.

Playing Double Time

What could you achieve if you didn’t place any limitations on yourself? Jazz pianist Art Tatum— called “the eighth wonder of the world” by Count Basie— is a perfect example of a man who knew no boundaries.

Though blind, Tatum expressed an interest in the piano as a youngster. He listened to the musical stylings of Fats Waller and Lee Sims on the radio for hours, hoping that someday he would be able to perform as well as they did. Of course, that meant he’d have to learn to play, but unfortunately, like many families in the 1920s, his had few resources to spend on music lessons.

As Tatum neared adolescence, he devised his own method for learning the instrument. He persuaded friends to escort him to a jazz club, where he was given permission to sit at the player piano.

As the music played, Tatum kept his fingers hovering lightly over the falling keys, feeling his way through the songs. He practiced late into the night, as often as he could, in spite of his age, his schoolwork, and his part-time job.

Learning to play piano in this manner was difficult, but not just because he was blind. What Tatum didn’t realize was that player piano rolls of that era were the result of two pianists playing together. He was learning to play with two hands what normally took four. As a result, he developed an incredible dexterity that enabled him to master the piano. Art Tatum’s strong will overshadowed any real or imagined challenges that could have prevented him from learning to play the piano.

At the age of 17, Tatum began playing professionally in a career that spanned decades. What began as a desire to sound like Fats Waller developed into a four-handed playing style that would astonish Waller and fellow musicians throughout the 20th century.

Canadian Employment (Dec) – January, 2021

Canadian employment lost 63k jobs in December (-0.3%, m/m), representing the first decline since April 2020. This comes on the heels of many provinces reinstating public health measures that closed recreational facilities and in-person dining services. The decline was led by part-time employment, specifically among youth aged 15 to 24 and those 55 and above. Employment declined in all provinces except for BC. The national unemployment rate ticked up by 0.1 percentage points to 8.6%, which is still a fall from the record high of 13.7% in May 2020. Compared to the same month last year, Canadian employment was down by 3.0% (-572k).

In BC, employment grew by 3.8k (0.2%, m/m) in December, following a gain of 24k in the previous month. The province continues to be at 99% of its pre-COVID February employment level. The unemployment rate ticked up by 0.1 percentage points to 7.2%, the first increase since the record high of 13.4% in May 2020. Meanwhile, in Vancouver, employment decreased by 1.1k (-0.1%, m/m). Compared to one year ago, employment in BC was down by 1.4% (-37K) jobs.

Despite rising cases of COVID-19 across the country, employment in BC bucked the trend and grew in December. Industries that saw the largest increases were construction and manufacturing, while like the rest of the country, employment fell in accommodation and food services. On the whole, we can expect national employment growth to come to a standstill as caseloads and hospitalizations increase, leaving many provinces to extend restrictions and partial lockdowns.

For more information, please contact: Gino Pezzani.


COVID-19 Reopening Dashboard – January, 2021

The BCREA Economics team has created the COVID-19 Reopening Dashboard to help REALTORS® monitor the evolution of the economy as BC navigates the recovery. This dashboard focuses on the sectors and activities that have been most significantly impacted by the pandemic and the province’s subsequent state of emergency. While demand for homes continues to be strong, the supply of listings has reached near-record lows in several parts of the province, with prices rising sharply as a result.

To monitor the province’s progress, we benchmark each indicator to February 2020, the month before the pandemic was declared. This dashboard is updated each month.

Download (PDF, 145KB)

BCREA’s updated COVID-19 Reopening Dashboard is available here.

For more information, please contact: Gino Pezzani.

Bear With the Joke

A bear walked into an ice cream parlor, handed a $10 bill to the clerk, and asked for a hot fudge sundae.

Though the clerk thought this scenario was completely surreal, he also wondered if the bear truly knew the value of money or if he was simply mimicking human behavior. To test out this theory, he handed over a $1 bill as change when he served the bear his ice cream.

“You know, we don’t get many bears around here buying sundaes,” said the clerk.

“Ya think?” replied the bear. “Since when do sundaes cost $9?”

Zooming to Success

As working from home becomes the norm, encouraging employees to participate actively in online meetings isn’t always easy. The secret is providing the kind of leadership that’s crucial to getting everyone to join in. Consider these tips:

Break larger meetings into smaller ones with a focused topic. Assign each group a topic to discuss, then have one person serve as spokesperson in a larger meeting to keep things streamlined.

• Open with a very safe agenda topic. Stay away from problematic issues until people are warmed up and ready to speak freely.

• Don’t change gears too suddenly. You can’t turn discussions on and off instantly. Don’t get everyone talking, then silence them for a long speech in the middle of the meeting, as discussion isn’t likely to quickly start up again.

By the same token, don’t wait until you really need participation before encouraging it. Provide breaks and clear transitions, so employees know what to do.

• Use the right language. “Meeting” can sound dull and passive. Call it a “working session” or a seminar. Think of and refer to people in the room as participants, not employees or audience members.

We Get Back What We Put Out

It was a very cold day in January, the kind of cold that seeps into your bones until your toes are numb. However, the cold outside did not stop customers from passing through the corner store to pick up the usual random items that require quick stops on the way home: milk, a bundle of firewood, or a snack to hold them over until dinnertime.

Lora, the clerk, realized she was short on change in the till with several hours left until closing time, so she hurriedly walked across the street to trade some bills for change at the bank before it closed for the evening. As she dashed back across to her little store, Lora felt something at her ankles and looked down to see a scraggly little cat. She felt guilty, but had to shoo the cat away.

Later, counting out the till, she realized she was short a $20 bill. Lora realized she likely dropped the cash outside and with a deep sigh, added her own last $20 bill to the till so her employer wouldn’t dock her pay for the mistake.

Reluctantly, she put back the groceries she had planned on purchasing and closed the shop. Suddenly, she heard a meow— it was the scruffy little street cat from earlier. This time, he was curled up against the wall, barely out of the wind.

Lora decided it wouldn’t hurt to bring him home for one warm night, and scooped him up before she could change her mind. As she did so, the $20 bill fluttered down the street toward her. In that instant, Lora understood an age-old lesson: we get back what we put out.

She decided to use the $20 to purchase dinner for herself… and her new pet cat.

January Is…

National Mentoring Month.

You can make a fundamental difference in the life of a young person. Establish a path based on what you have learned first-hand in your own life, regardless of where you are in your career. Or you can answer the call for mentors nationwide through a system like the one at the website. There, you will find suggestions you can scale up from occasional work involving youth in your home area, all the way to starting your own local program.

Your commitment and guidance can be the driving force to your mentee’s future success and their willingness to reach back and help someone else. You might even find that helping a young person find their way has the echoing effect of helping you strive for more, as you begin a new year with new goals.