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Economy holding strong

The Thompson-Okanagan economy continued to perform well in 2015, according to a new report.

The Chartered Professional Accountants of B.C. annual economic report expects the local economy to “remain robust” in 2016.

“Compared to other regions in B.C., the Thompson-Okanagan’s economy performed relatively well in 2015,” said Karen Christiansen, a partner at MNP LLP in Kelowna. “Population growth, increased tourism and favourable weather benefited our economy.”

The report found the lower Canadian dollar helped the region’s tourism industry, with hotel occupancy up 2.9 per cent in Kelowna and 4.6 per cent in Penticton.

In Kamloops, hotel occupancy fell by one per cent.

The population in the region continued to grow, resulting in a nine per cent increase in housing sales and a 3.1 per cent increase in housing sale values.

The value of the region’s building permits, an indicator of new construction, increased 15.6 per cent to $1.3 billion.

“Increased activity in these industries provided employment opportunities for young workers between the ages 19 and 24,” said Christiansen. “This helped to bring down our region’s youth unemployment by 1.6 percentage points to 8.1 per cent in 2015, well below the provincial average of 9.9 per cent. The decline was also unique in the province.”

Looking to the future, the organization expects this success to continue.

In the first quarter of 2016, the region saw record real estate sales, due in part to Lower Mainland homeowners relocating.

“This reported jump suggests the Thompson-Okanagan will see continued population growth, increased housing starts, and further construction and other real estate related activity,” the report states.

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