A record number of Canadians moved to the East Coast in the second quarter of 2021, according to new research from RBC Economics.

Atlantic Canada attracted more than 7,500 interprovincial migrants in the months of April, May and June, said RBC analyst Carrie Freestone in a note to clients. That’s a larger haul of new residents than in 2019 and 2020 combined. 

More than half of them (55 per cent) settled in Nova Scotia, making Halifax one of Canada’s fastest growing cities. Meanwhile, 25 per cent migrated to New Brunswick.

“Lower COVID spread in the Maritimes probably amplified the region’s appeal,” said Freestone in the note. “But relatively affordable housing was likely an even bigger draw, especially as home prices skyrocketed in already-expensive parts of the country and more Canadians were able to work remotely.”

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the average price for a home in Halifax-Dartmouth was $455,000 in the second quarter of 2021. That represents a nearly 28 per cent jump from one year ago, but still pales in comparison to the average price for a home in Greater Toronto — which had climbed as high as $1.1 million as of August, according to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board.

Nearly half of all of Atlantic Canada’s newest residents are under the age of 44, RBC’s research suggests. 

That could prove to be a boon to the East Coast’s labour force and for local businesses, since historically, the region has seen its well-educated and highly-skilled work force move to Western Canada in search of higher wages.

“It remains to be seen whether the surge of newcomers will endure,” said Freestone. “If it does, this would be great news for a region that has struggled to attract and retain people for decades.”

“New arrivals on the coast bode well for population growth too, especially once immigration resumes. Additional new residents could drive stronger consumer spending and will also result in higher government revenues, fueling this Atlantic revitalization.”