Fleeing downtown Calgary

This is an interesting trend.  Is the rent too high in downtown Calgary?  

Imperial Oil is on the move. Now Canadian Pacific Railway. The big question is who is next to make the jump from downtown Calgary as prices escalate and tenants look for better rents away from the core.

“You add them together and you get 1.2 million square feet and that’s a big chunk,” said Ross Moore , head of research with CB Richard Ellis Canada, in referring to the two companies. “There is a limit to how high you can push rents.”

Imperial announced in September it would move its downtown office to a 20-acre site away from the downtown with five low-rise buildings and 800,000 square feet. Then last week CP Rail said it would move its employees as part of a cost-cutting plan.

“Everybody is focused on costs and real estate is obviously part of your costs,” said Mr. Moore, who wonders whether the trend will curtail some of the planned development expected to go ahead shortly. “They all have to be having second thoughts.”

Third quarter statistics from CB Richard Ellis show rents overall in Calgary’s downtown core climbed 4.4% from just three months before to $26.79 per square foot per year, making it one of the most expensive places in North America. The vacancy rate for what is considered a AA building is a scant 0.5% which has pushed rates up.

Of course the answer is no as it is market driven.  CPR is cutting costs and Imperial Oil has it’s own strategic reasons to move to a very large campus but it is extremely interesting to see how expensive rent is in downtown Calgary.  

Only 47% of working age American’s have full time jobs

Looking at the January 7 employment report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows some startling numbers and started me thinking about Saskatoon.

The total non institutional civilian labor force (Americans 16 years and older who are not in a institution -criminal, mental, or other types of facilities- or an active military duty) is reported as 238.889 million. Of these, we see:

  • Employed: 139.206 million people (58.3% of labor force)
  • Unemployed: 14.485 million people (6.1% of labor force)

Obviously, that can’t be the total picture, we’re only at 64.4%. This is why:

  • Part time employed for economic reasons: 8.931 million people. This concerns people who want a full-time job but can’t get one.
  • Part time employed for non-economic reasons: 18.184 million people. Non-economic reasons include school or training, retirement or Social Security limits on earnings, but also childcare problems and family or personal obligations.

But the by far largest category "missing" from both the Employed and Unemployed statistics is the "Not In Labor Force": 85.2 Million people.
The BLS definition states: "Not in the labor force (NILF). A person who did not work last week, was not temporarily absent from a job, did not actively look for work in the previous 4 weeks, or looked but was unavailable for work during the reference week; in other words, a person who was neither employed nor unemployed." (Clearly, this does include lot of unemployed people).
To summarize: 108.616 million people in America are either unemployed, underemployed or "Not in the labor force". This represents 45.5% of working age Americans.

What does this mean?  Is 47% of the workforce working full time jobs enough to pay for the rest of the countries entitlements?  Especially as Baby Boomers retire and smaller generations take on that burden?  Forget the United States as a country, look at the numbers locally.  Even in Saskatoon, much of our expected growth will come from seniors retiring into our cities.  Projections for school age kids is to remain flat or show small growth in the city.

Saskatoon's demographics in 2026

This will increase health costs, increase the need for public transit (not a bad thing), and may put some downward pressure on the real estate market (will senior’s want single detached homes or as we see in the transformation of Market Mall from sleepy mall into a mega city, will they want condos and assisted senior’s living?).  I know health is a federal/provincial responsibility but money that is spent on healthcare is money that isn’t available for other programs.  Of course with a larger percentage of Saskatoon’s citizens not paying the income tax they once were, what does that do for the coffers in Regina and Ottawa? 

Politicians speak in terms of unemployment but more and more I am starting to think that employment numbers are more important.  Not only for those that are seeking work but for their contributions to the fair and just society that we call home.  Now one of the ways to balance this out is to increase immigration to Canada.  I know that has come with it’s own difficulties but Canada isn’t a melting pot, it is a “community of communities” and outside of Quebec, we don’t struggle with the nationalistic feelings that other countries have (outside of a two week window every year when the World Junior Hockey Championships are on).  I am obviously biased having married an immigrant to Canada but for me, a more diverse Saskatoon could be a great side effect of an aging population.

Plus, increased immigration to Saskatoon would mean more trips to the region by Jason Kenney as he stumped for their votes.