Immigrants and students fueled Canada's population jump in 2023 -StatsCan

People walk down a street in Montreal

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Sharply higher numbers of immigrants and students were the main reason that Canada's population jumped by an almost 70-year high in the 12 months to July 1, 2023, Statistics Canada said on Wednesday.

The data come at a time when the Liberal government is under pressure over a lack of affordable housing as house building lags and newcomers arrive in large numbers.

Statscan had already announced the population grew by 2.9% in the 12 months to July 1, 2023 but Wednesday's release provided more details.

Economists say new arrivals are straining public services and contributing to a Canadian economy which until recently has been overheating.

The population on July 1 this year hit 40,097,761, a gain of 1,158,705 people from a year earlier. Close to 98% of the growth came from net international migration.

"Canada continued to lead G7 countries for population growth and was likely among the top 20 fastest growing countries in the world," Statscan said in a news release. Fertility reached record-low levels in 2022, with 1.33 children per woman, compared with 1.44 in 2021.

As of July 1, 2023, an estimated 2,198,679 non-permanent residents lived in Canada, a 46% jump from July 1, 2022.

"This represents the largest year-over-year increase in the population of non-permanent residents ... since comparable data are available (1971/1972), with the increase in work and study permits accounting for most of the change," said Statscan.

Marc Desormeaux, principal economist at Desjardins, said a high level of new arrivals and improving immigrant labor market integration were good for long-run economic prosperity but also complicated monetary policy.

"Near-record rates of population growth can also contribute to outsized employment growth, that could put upward pressure on consumer demand and ultimately drive further price increases," he said in a note.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by David Gregorio)