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BMO: Great Lakes Region a Vital Driver of North America’s Economy

April 28, 2014, 06:04 AM
Filed Under: Economic Commentary

BMO Economics released a special report, North America's Economic Engine, on the economic output from the Great Lakes region. The reports notes that the region is a major driver of North American economic output, employment and trade, accounting for nearly a third of combined Canadian and U.S. output, jobs and exports.

"The Great Lakes region has so much going for itself with transportation infrastructure, advanced manufacturing, research and development, digital manufacturing, strong locally-rooted financial institutions, and some of the world's best post-secondary institutions," said Ambassador David Jacobson, Vice-Chair, BMO Financial Group. "I am delighted that the Council of Great Lakes Governors meeting is taking place here in Chicago, which is home to dozens of Fortune 1000 companies. We are a city like no other when it comes to reinventing itself. The discussions over the next two days here in Chicago will allow us to explore opportunities to create jobs, strengthen trade, open doors to new discoveries, and drive innovation and prosperity for all in the region."

According to the report, economic activity across the eight states and Ontario has improved after being hard hit during the recession, and is forecasted to continue growing through 2014. Economic output was $4.9 trillion in 2012, and the region accounts for 28 percent of combined Canadian and U.S. economy activity.

"The Great Lakes region is a power house not just in terms of the North American economy, but on the global stage. If the region was a country, it would rank as the fourth largest economy in the world, behind only the U.S., China and Japan," said Michael Gregory, Head of U.S. Economics, BMO Capital Markets. "While we did see activity slow down notably from 2007 to 2009, we've seen a bounceback across the states and in Canada, with the auto sector being a key contributor."

The region employed more than 46 million workers in 2013, accounting for nearly 30 percent of the combined Canadian and U.S. workforce, in a wide range of industries.

"Historically, this has been a hub for manufacturing, but employment has diversified and factory-sector employment now makes up just over 10 percent of the workforce across the region - down five percentage points from a decade ago," said Mr. Gregory. "We've seen double digit job growth in education and healthcare, as well as professional services, with retail and wholesale trade and government services also making a strong contribution to employment."

The report also notes the importance of trade within the region and across borders. Nearly a quarter of U.S. merchandise exports came from the region in 2013, while Ontario accounted for 40 percent of Canadian shipments. The main drivers were transportation equipment and machinery, followed by agricultural and food products, metals and chemicals.

"Trade between the Great Lakes states, and cross-border trade, is vital to the smooth running of this economic engine. The North American Free Trade Agreement has played a pivotal role, as has the Beyond the Border Action Plan. Policy aimed at improving trade flows will further support growth in the region," said Mr. Gregory. "The bridge between Windsor and Detroit is just one recent example we've seen, which will not only improve border infrastructure but serve to facilitate increased trade."

To view a full copy of the report, click here.

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