Health and education sector now city's top employer, report says

The health and education sector overtook public administration to become Ottawa’s largest employment sector in 2015, according to an economic update prepared for city council’s finance and economic development committee.

By Jacob Serebrin

It’s the first time in the city’s history that the health and education sector has held the top spot. Public administration has now dropped to second place on the list of the city’s largest employers.

The report credits the growth in health and education employment to the city’s aging population, a trend that’s being seen nationwide.

While public sector categories still employ more Ottawa workers than any specific part of the private sector, 65 per cent of the city’s total workforce is employed in the private sector while 32 per cent works in the public sector.

“That being said, the importance of the public sector cannot be understated given that a sizable proportion of the private sector sells its products and services to the different levels of government in Ottawa,” the report reads.

The city is forecasting modest overall economic growth, projecting a two per cent increase in its gross domestic product for 2017.

“While still modest and not yet a return to pre-recession growth levels, the trajectory of local GDP growth is moving in the right direction,” the report says.

Currently, Ottawa’s GDP sits at $65 billion, putting it sixth among Canadian cities behind Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

The city posted an average unemployment rate of 6.3 per cent in 2015, a mark slightly below the national average of 6.9 per cent and the provincial average of 6.75 per cent.

Ottawa’s real estate market is experiencing mixed conditions, according to the report.

Commercial office vacancies are at one of their highest levels in history at 10.6 per cent citywide. Downtown, the commercial vacancy rate is at 8.9 per cent, a historical high.

However, Kanata and other areas that have attracted tech companies are seeing historically low vacancy rates, the report says, adding the growth of Ottawa’s tech industry is expected to continue.

Tech is also having an impact on Ottawa’s tourism industry. The number of “active” local listings on Airbnb, an online marketplace that lets people rent out their homes or part of their homes on a short-term basis, doubled over the course of 2015 from 566 listings in January to 1,314 in December.

However, the report says that Ottawa hotels have “one of the lowest (and most stable) vacancy rates in Canada.”