Comparing GDP growth across different geographies

City of Toronto’s Data, Research & Maps web page consists of a treasure trove of interesting data and information about the city.  The Economic Indicators & Labour Force data contains detailed information about Toronto’s (and the surrounding regions) components of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) between 2011 and 2016. I decided to chart some of the data to measure and compare the economic performance of the City of Toronto to the broader Toronto Census Metropolitan Area (Toronto CMA), Ontario and Canada.

The first chart below shows GDP (in $1,000) for the regions since 2011 –

GDP 1011 - 2016

The interesting takeaway from this chart is that the GDP of the Toronto CMA has surpassed the rest of Ontario (outside of the Toronto CMA) in 2016. As of 2016, the population of the Toronto CMA accounted for 44% of Ontario’s population. This is a small indication that the Toronto CMA is more productive economically than the rest of Ontario.

The next chart shows GDP growth (%) between 2011 and 2016 –

GDP growth 2011 - 2016

The most interesting finding gleaned from the chart above is that the GDP of the rest of the Toronto CMA grew faster than the City of Toronto itself – something I would not have predicted given the strong urbanizing effect of job growth in Downtown Toronto over the last few years (as identified in the recent and informative Neptis report, Planning the Next GGH; as well as in Toronto’s Employment Surveys). However, I am certain the numbers would differ, especially for the City of Toronto had we the GDP data to 2018. The rest of Ontario (outside the Toronto CMA) has faced the weakest economic growth, with GDP declines in 3 of the 6 years analyzed. The Toronto CMA experienced a GDP growth rate of more than double that of Canada since 2011 (falling oil prices in 2014/2015 had quite an impact on Canada’s economy). It would be interesting to measure the GDP of the other big cities in Canada to determine whether the economic growth of urban regions is surpassing national growth (might be a topic for the next blog post).

And the final chart shows Year Over Year GDP Growth since 2011 –

GDP YoY growth 2011 - 2016

The most interesting takeaway from the chart above is a trend showing some sort of spatial trifurcation of GDP growth since 2013, with GDP growth strongest in urban regions, steady in Ontario as a whole, and weakest in less urban areas and across all of Canada. This brings into mind an interesting study done in the US by Zillow from 2016, where the researchers found that nationwide average home values in areas considered more urban were higher than home values in suburban or rural areas.

I would be curious to assess the GDP data to 2018 to compare growth between the different geographies and especially the City of Toronto and the rest of the Toronto CMA, and determine whether this recent trend of agglomeration economics has intensified. My prediction is that it has given the “hyper-concentration” of job growth in Downtown Toronto over the last few years.


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