The BCREA Commercial Leading Indicator (CLI) fell slightly to 135.3 in the third quarter of 2019. The index remains unchanged compared to the same time last year.
Provincial economic activity continued to slow in the third quarter of 2019, with declines in retail and manufacturing sales more than offsetting a gain in wholesale trade. This left the economic activity component of the CLI negative for the fifth consecutive quarter. Office employment was up for the fifth consecutive quarter, edging out a decline in manufacturing employment, which resulted in a positive change in the employment component of the CLI. The financial component of the CLI was positive for a third straight quarter. The underlying trend in the CLI has been relatively flat over the past five quarters, suggesting a stable environment for commercial real estate activity in the province.
Following several years of robust growth, the BC economy continues to slow in 2019. Weak manufacturing sales in petroleum and coal, and lower retail sales at gasoline stations and auto dealers, put a drag on economic activity in the third quarter. Wholesale trade sales were positive in the third quarter due to a large expansion in machinery and equipment.
Employment growth in key commercial real estate sectors such as finance, insurance, real estate and leasing continues to be strong, up by 7,600 jobs in the third quarter. This measure of office employment now sits at an all-time high, signalling strong future demand for office space. In contrast, manufacturing employment fell by 4,200 jobs from the previous quarter.
The CLI’s financial component was positive in the third quarter due to an increase in benchmark Canadian REIT prices, which more than offset the expansion of short term credit spreads.