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Manitoba will post the fourth best economic performance in the country in 2015, according to the latest consensus forecast from nine key private-sector forecasters.

Narendra Budhia, director of economic and fiscal analysis for the provincial Department of Finance, told about 50 delegates attending the Manitoba Association for Business Economics' 26th annual Outlook Conference in Winnipeg the consensus forecast is for the Manitoba economy to post real gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 2.5 per cent for 2015.

The only provinces the forecasters think will do better are Alberta, with 3.2 per cent growth, British Columbia (2.7 per cent) and Saskatchewan (2.6 per cent), Budhia added.

'These are numbers we haven't seen in about 50 years in Manitoba'‐ Narendra Budhia, director of economic and fiscal analysis for the Manitoba Department of Finance

He noted the consensus forecast for this year is for Manitoba to finish tied with Ontario for the third-best GDP growth, at 2.0 per cent. However, Finance Department officials are now thinking that estimate may be a bit conservative.

"We've seen quite a bit of strength year-to-date," he said in an interview following his presentation, noting wholesale trade, retail sales, manufacturing shipments, and building permit activity have all been tracking well.

Budhia told the conference delegates, who included local economists, researchers, government analysts and business professionals, that Statistics Canada also released the final GDP numbers for 2013 Wednesday.

They showed Manitoba turned in the fourth-best economic performance that year as well, with growth of 2.2 per cent. Some of the big drivers behind that healthy performance were an 18.5 per cent jump in agricultural output, a 7.9 per cent increase in output by the utilities sector and a 4.3 per cent increase for the construction industry.

The construction industry is also expected to be one of the top performers in 2015, he said, with projected growth of six to eight per cent. The forecasters are also anticipating growth of 2.3 per cent for the local mining sector, 2.2 per cent for the agriculture industry, and two to three per cent for the manufacturing sector.

Budhia noted Manitoba has been Canada's most stable economy and one of its best performers for the past decade, posting the third-strongest average annual GDP growth rate of 2.5 per cent.

In the last four years, it's also had the third-fastest growing population, he said, with annual growth of 1.05 per cent, 1.36 per cent, 1.1 per cent and 1.3 per cent.

"These are numbers we haven't seen in about 50 years in Manitoba."

A senior city official also outlined some of the recent demographic trends within the city of Winnipeg. Georges Chartier, the city's economist and manager of infrastructure planning, said Winnipeg's population has grown by 55,000 over the last 10 years, climbing to 699,300 by the end of 2013.

That's a big improvement from the 1990s, when there was little or no population growth, he said, "and the Provincial Nominee Program has been the main reason for that."

Chartier noted about 80 per cent of the immigrants who arrive in Manitoba each year settle in Winnipeg. And by far, the majority of them come from the Philippines.

In 2013, for example, the Philippines accounted for 3,298 of the more roughly 11,000 new arrivals, he said. The other four top countries of origin were India (1,668), China (759), Nigeria (611) and Eritrea (400).

Chartier said the Conference Board of Canada predicts Winnipeg's population will grow a further 95,000 people over the next 10 years, and by 200,000 over the next 22 years.