As I have pointed out previously, this growth is important but not nearly enough to provide replacement workers for the current employment base in the province, let alone provide the workforce for an economic growth agenda.
It's also worthwhile to point out that, despite modest population gains on a quarterly basis for the last three years, the estimated New Brunswick population in October 2010 just came back to its high watermark which was hit way back in October 1996. Since that time, the Canadian population has grown by 4.5 million people (a 15.6-per-cent increase).
Clearly, New Brunswick needs to build on recent positive trends.
There is one interesting story coming out of the latest population data. Little Prince Edward Island is in the middle of a population mini-boom. In the most recent quarterly estimate, the Island had the third-highest growth rate among the provinces. Its population increased by nearly 1,000 (up 0.7 per cent) to 143,200. Statistics Canada reports the increase was primarily due to immigration, as the province received 1,200 immigrants, the highest number since 1971.
In the last year, the population on P.E.I. has grown faster (up 1.3 per cent) than Canada as a whole (up one per cent). This is the first time the Island has outperformed the country as a whole over a 12 month period since the early 1980s.
While New Brunswick's population in October 2010 is the same as it was in October 1996, P.E.I. has registered a respectable 5.5 per cent population growth rate during that period. This was better than four other provinces including Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.
The recent mini-boom in population on the Island has been fuelled mostly by immigration, which is up four fold in recent years compared to the mid-2000s and inward interprovincial migration (people moving in from other provinces) which is up 25 per cent compared to last year.
Will P.E.I.'s population growth story continue? As I have argued in this column, population growth efforts (such as immigrant attraction) have to be linked to employment growth efforts. Having a job is foundational to keeping an immigrant from leaving the province.
Prince Edward Island has been less successful on the job creation front, showing a slight decline in total employment from December 2009 to December 2010 and only a modest, two per cent growth in the past five years.
However, like New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island is aging quickly and many of the new people moving in could be absorbing the jobs left behind by the increasing number of retirees.
In the end, it is very good news that a small, Maritime Canada province can demonstrate an ability to attract people. P.E.I. has attracted nearly 2,500 immigrants in the past year. Adjusted for population size that would equivalent to New Brunswick attracting nearly 15,000 per year.
In other words, for New Brunswick just to match P.E.I.'s immigrant attraction efforts over the past year, we would need to see a seven-fold increase in our immigration efforts. At that point, it starts to get interesting.
We now have concrete proof the Maritime provinces can attract immigrants in significant numbers. Now we need to have the economic opportunities and social infrastructure to keep them here.
David Campbell is an economic development consultant based in Moncton. He writes a daily blog, It's the Economy Stupid, at www.davidwcampbell.com.