Our forecast puts the chance of a recession at 60% by the middle of the year.
A recession, albeit mild and brief, is likely. Our forecast puts the chance of a recession at 60% by the middle of the year, with the downturn hitting the economy unevenly. We will not be able to determine if a recession has officially begun until the C.D. Howe Institute’s Business Cycle Council—an arbiter of business cycle dates in Canada—announces its decision. It took the council, however, more than a year to officially announce the end of the most recent recession. By replicating the criteria used to identify when a recession begins and ends, we can track the start and end dates much sooner. Here are the top indicators we can monitor, according to the council’s past reports: gross domestic product, job growth (from the payroll and labour force surveys), and industrial sales. The past two recessions featured sharp declines in the growth rates of all four indicators. Following the same analysis, the Canadian economy has not been in a recession since the pandemic as industrial sales and jobs have remained solid, especially in the first quarter of this year. But the economy has shown signs of a slowdown as steep interest rate hikes continue to put pressure on borrowing costs and, as a result, investment. We believe the Canadian economy will tip into a mild recession in by middle of the year when the full impact of rate hikes sinks in. The United States and other Canadian trading partners will most likely experience some degree of downturns, adding more reasons to believe a recession is imminent. We expect a mild and brief recession that will be spurred by restrictive monetary policies instead of by a problem with the structural foundation of the economy like what happened in 2008. The Bank of Canada would be in a tougher position compared to 2008 because it would most likely not be able to cut rates aggressively when inflation is expected to remain around 3% by year’s end. But it would still be a much easier job compared to the one faced by the Federal Reserve, which is struggling with higher inflation and the prospect of more rate hikes in the United States. We still expect 40% of the economy to achieve a soft landing and avoid a recession. The key factor will again depend on the labour market, which can either sink or lift the economy almost single-handedly.