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About North Coast & Nechako

North Coast & Nechako is actually an amalgamation of two sparsely populated regions. They have been combined because otherwise the data for these regions would be too unreliable to report.

Data on employment and other labour force characteristics comes from the Labour Force Survey, a household survey which is based on a sample (a total of 6,383 households) of the BC population. The survey is designed to adequately represent the characteristics of the population, but if there are not enough respondents in a particular area, the likely error in the survey data is too large, so the information is not considered reliable. By combining data for the two regions, it is possible to make meaningful comparisons with the rest of the province.

North Coast includes the northern coastal areas of the province, and has two regional districts:

  • Kitimat-Stikine
  • Skeena-Queen Charlotte

The islands of Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) are an archipelago on the north coast of BC, known for their rich aboriginal heritage and majestic forests. Prince Rupert, the largest town in the region, is located on the coast and has a natural deep-sea port. Along the Skeena River is a hybrid of coastal and interior climates. Retreating glacial deposits left the areas close to the river marked by terraces, a feature that gave Terrace, the largest city in Kitimat-Stikine, its name.

Nechako stretches through the central and far northwestern region of BC, and also includes two regional districts:

  • Bulkley-Nechako
  • Stikine

The northern half of the region, called Stikine, forms the province's border with Yukon to the north, and the Alaska panhandle to the west. Bulkley-Nechako, in the southern portion of the region, is commonly referred to as the "Lakes District", and is the location of most of the region's people and economic activity.

The people

North Coast's population was 58,200 in 2008. Most (39,100) of the people in this region live in Kitimat-Stikine. Terrace (10,800) and Kitimat (9,200) are home to more than half of the residents of Kitimat-Stikine.

Skeena-Queen Charlotte's population is 19,600, most of it located in Prince Rupert (12,900).

The population of Nechako was 39,600 in 2008, making it the least populous region of the province. Almost all (38,500) of these people lived in the Bulkley-Nechako regional district, where the largest town is Smithers, which has a population of 5,300. There were 650 people living in Stikine.

One in five residents of North Coast & Nechako is under the age of 15

   

One in five residents of North Coast & Nechako is under the age of 15

Data Source: BC Stats

North Coast & Nechako, like other northern regions of the province, has a relatively young population. Just 11% of its residents are aged 65 or more, less than in any other region of the province except Northeast (where the senior population makes up 8% of the total). One in five of the region's residents are under the age of 15. Northeast (22%) is the only region with proportionally more children than North Coast & Nechako.

With children making up a much bigger share of the population in North Coast & Nechako, the proportion of working age residents is 69%, slightly lower than in the province as a whole (70%).

Where are the people located?

Forty-three percent of the population of North Coast & Nechako lives in a rural area

   

Forty-three percent of the population of North Coast & Nechako lives in a rural area

Data Source: BC Stats

North Coast & Nechako has a large rural population. About 43% of the region's residents live outside municipal boundaries, proportionally more than in any other region of the province.

Nechako, which borders with Yukon and Alaska, is the least populous and least urbanized region of the province. All of the residents of Stikine (population 650) live in unincorporated areas. In Bulkley-Nechako, 52% of the population lives in a rural area. Forty-five percent of Kitimat-Stikine's residents are rural dwellers, as are 20% of those living in Skeena-Queen Charlotte.

Four out of 10 people working in the region are located in Bulkley-Nechako, with a similar number located in Kitimat-Stikine. Skeena-Queen Charlotte is home to 21% of the region's workforce, many of whom are located in and around Prince Rupert. Stikine accounts for just 2% of total employment in the region.

Most of the people, and jobs, are located in Bulkley-Nechako or Kitimat-Stikine

   

Most of the people, and jobs, are located in Bulkley-Nechako or Kitimat-Stikine

Data Source: Statistics Canada & BC Stats

The workforce

There were 44,100 people employed in North Coast & Nechako in 2008. The region has more working-aged men than women, but women make up a slightly larger share of the workforce in North Coast & Nechako (48%) than in the province as a whole (47%).

Most (80%) of the region's workers had full-time jobs, virtually the same proportion as in the province as a whole. Self-employment is not common. Just 13% of the workers had their own jobs, considerably less than the 19% of the province's workforce that is self-employed.

Unemployment rates in the region are usually higher than in the rest of the province, and in some years, the difference has been quite significant. Over the period from 1995 to 2008, the jobless rate in North Coast & Nechako averaged 9.3%, more than in any other region except Cariboo, where the average rate was 9.4%. BC's average unemployment rate during this period was just 7.2%.

Unemployment rates are typically higher than average in North Coast & Nechako

   

Unemployment rates are typically higher than average in North Coast & Nechako

Data Source: Statistics Canada

Unemployment rates in the region are usually higher than in other parts of the province. During the period from 1995 to 2008, the jobless rate in Cariboo averaged 9.4%, more than two percentage points higher than the average rate in BC (7.2%).

The economy

Like other largely rural regions, North Coast & Nechako is more dependent on goods producing industries than is the case for the province as a whole. In 2008, these industries employed 31% of the regional workforce, significantly more than the goods sector's share of total employment in the province (22%).

Goods industries employ nearly a third of the region's workforce

   

Goods industries employ nearly a third of the region's workforce

Data Source: Statistics Canada

North Coast & Nechako is a region that typifies the stereotype of BC's economy - highly dependent on forestry, fishing and mining and related processing activities. While these are no longer the dominant activities in other regions of the province, they play a key role in the economy of North Coast & Nechako.

Manufacturing and forestry, fishing & mining are the main employers in the goods sector

   

Manufacturing and forestry, fishing & mining are the main employers in the goods sector

Data Source: Statistics Canada
*BC Stats estimate

Sixteen percent of the workforce in North Coast & Nechako is employed in manufacturing, while forestry, fishing & mining provides jobs for 8% of the workers. Another 6% are employed in construction, while agriculture (1%) and utilities are relatively small employers.

Wood and lumber production is dominant, accounting for four out of 10 manufacturing jobs. Another 10% of the manufacturing workforce is employed by the paper industry.

Food processing, another important source of manufacturing jobs (16% of the total), primarily involves seafood processing. Both commercial and sport fishing activities occur in the region, and facilities in North Coast & Nechako process fish caught in the northern waters off the BC coast.

One in four manufacturing workers is employed in mineral product manufacturing. Most of them work at the Kitimat smelter, which produces aluminium products (and also generates power that supplies the province's power grid).

Forestry, fishing & mining activities employ 8% of the region's workforce. About half of them work in forestry and logging activities.

Mining-related activities are also an important source of employment in the region. Primary mining employs about 3% of the workforce. Mines located in the region include the Endako molybdenum mine, the Huckleberry copper-molybdenum mine and the Table Mountain gold mine.

Fishing employs only a few hundred people but it is an important industry in the regional economy.

Agriculture activities include cattle ranching & farming, as well as various types of crop production.

Wholesale & retail trade, health & social assistance, and accommodation & food services are the biggest service sector employers

   

Wholesale & retail trade, health & social assistance, and accommodation & food services are the biggest service sector employers

Data Source: Statistics Canada
*BC Stats estimate

Sixteen percent of the region's workforce is employed in wholesale & retail trade, with another 11% working in health & social assistance. Another 8% have jobs in accommodation & food services.

The relative importance of transportation & warehousing (7%) in the regional economy is related to activities at the port of Prince Rupert. It has a natural deep water harbour, and prairie grain, coal and other commodities are loaded from the port onto ships headed for Asia and other destinations. Apart from its advantage as a natural deep sea harbour, the distance from Prince Rupert to some destinations in Asia is slightly shorter than from points further south, and the port facility has seen traffic increase in recent years. At the same time, Prince Rupert is a stopping point for some cruise ship traffic heading to or from Alaska during the spring and summer months.

Prince Rupert's port has recently been expanded and it is expected that activity at the port will increase in the future. Associated with the port activities is related employment in rail transportation, as many of the goods shipped to or from the port are transported by rail.

Northwest Community College, located in Terrace, is the region's only public post-secondary institution.

How does the region's economic structure compare to BC's?

Although less than two percent of BC's total workforce is located in North Coast & Nechako, the region accounts for a much larger share of total employment in some industries. For example, 8% of British Columbians working in forestry, fishing and mining are located in North Coast & Nechako, and the region accounts for 4% of all manufacturing jobs in the province.

The importance of goods-producing industries in the region is also reflected in its larger-than-average share (3%) of total employment in the goods sector. Public administration (3%), transportation & warehousing (3%), wholesale & retail trade (2%), accommodation & food services (2%), and health & social assistance (2%) are other industries where employment in the region makes up a bigger share of the provincial total than its workforce does.

Eight percent of BC workers in forestry, mining & fishing are located in North Coast & Nechako

   

Eight percent of BC workers in forestry, mining & fishing are located in North Coast & Nechako

Data Source: Statistics Canada

What's happened since 1995?

The population of North Coast & Nechako is shrinking

   

The population of North Coast & Nechako is shrinking

Data Source: BC Stats

The population of North Coast & Nechako has been shrinking. There were 14% fewer people living in the region in 2008 than in 1995. BC's population grew 16% during this period. As a result, the region's share of BC's total population has fallen. It was just over 2% in 2008.

The population decline has been most notable in North Coast, where the number of residents has shrunk 17%, while the number of people living in Nechako has dropped 9%.

There were 12% fewer working-aged people living in North Coast & Nechako in 2008 than was the case in 1995. Over the same period, the senior population has increased 53%, while the number of children living in North Coast & Nechako has declined 34%.

The region has faced some challenges in recent years, as forest product manufacturers have been struggling. At the same time, fisheries have gone through significant changes, as the industry has shifted its focus away from primarily harvesting salmon to fishing for a variety of other species. With all these changes and challenges, it is perhaps not surprising that the region's population has been shrinking as residents relocate to other areas where there may be more work opportunities available.

Employment in both the goods and service sectors is trending down

   

Employment in both the goods and service sectors is trending down

Data Source: Statistics Canada

Employment in the region has declined 10% since 1995. Virtually every industry in the region has seen job losses.

The volatility of the employment indices is probably a reflection of the small sample size on which the employment data is based. For this region, it's probably better to look at long-term trends rather than year-to-year fluctuations in data, given the small numbers involved.

There are fewer jobs in goods producing industries

   

There are fewer jobs in goods producing industries

Data Source: Statistics Canada

In the goods sector, there were 22% fewer jobs in 2008 than in 1995. The biggest decline occurred in manufacturing, with a total job loss of 22%. Employment in forestry, fishing & mining was down 15%, but there were 4% more people working in construction. Information for agriculture and utilities isn't available for all years, so it's not possible to calculate job growth in these industries, which are relatively small employers in the region.

However, there are some service industries where employment has increased since 1995. In accommodation & food services, for example, the workforce has expanded 52%. There are also more people working in health & social assistance (+21%). The number of wholesale & retail jobs was unchanged, but employment in every other service industry has declined since 1995.

Accommodation & food services and health & social assistance are the only industries where employment has increased since 1995

   

Accommodation & food services and health & social assistance are the only industries where employment has increased since 1995

Data Source: Statistics Canada

What's the outlook to 2013?

The population of North Coast & Nechako is expected to remain fairly stable over the next few years, while BC's population continues to grow. As a result, the region's share of total population is forecast to inch down to 2.1%.

Total employment is expected to increase slightly, but not as much as in the province as a whole. Job growth is expected to be strongest in the goods sector, which will increase its share of the provincial total to 3.4% by 2013.

Employment and population growth in the region are expected to be slower than in the province as a whole

   

Employment and population growth in the region are expected to be slower than in the province as a whole

Data Source: BC Stats
Regional Employment Projection Model & PEOPLE 34

Table 11
Population and Labour Force Characteristics, North Coast & Nechako

North Coast & Nechako
North Coast & Nechako
British Columbia
North Coast & Nechako
2008 Data
('000)
Percent of total
as a percent
of BC total
Population characteristics
Population ('000)
97.9
100.0
100.0
2.2
Working Age (15-64)
67.6
69.0
69.8
2.2
Aged 65 and older
10.6
10.8
14.5
1.7
Under 15
19.7
20.1
15.7
2.9
         
Labour force characteristics
Employment ('000)
44.1
100.0
100.0
1.9
Employed full-time
35.2
79.8
79.9
1.9
Self-employed
5.6
12.7
18.5
1.3
Employed females
21.2
48.1
46.8
2.0
   
Average, 1995-2008 (%)
 
Unemployment rate
9.3
7.2

Data Source: Statistics Canada & BC Stats

 

Table 12
Employment by Industry, North Coast & Nechako

 
Cariboo
BC
 
Employment ('000)
Distribution of employment (%)
Percent of BC total
Distribution of employment (%)
All industries
44.1
100.0
1.9
100.0
Goods
13.5
30.6
2.7
21.7
Manufacturing
6.9
15.6
3.7
8.1
Forestry, fishing & mining
3.5
7.9
7.7
2.0
Construction
2.6
5.9
1.2
9.5
Agriculture
x
x
x
1.5
Utilities
x
x
x
0.6
Services
30.7
69.6
1.7
78.3
Wholesale & retail trade
7.0
15.9
2.0
15.3
Health & social assistance
4.7
10.7
1.9
10.6
Accomodation & food
3.5
7.9
2.0
7.7
Transportation & warehousing
3.2
7.3
2.5
5.5
Public administration
2.9
6.6
2.8
4.4
Education
2.5
5.7
1.5
7.0
Information, culture & recreation
x
x
x
5.1
Finance, insurance & real estate
1.5
3.4
1.0
6.4
Professional, scientific & technical
1.4
3.2
0.8
7.5
Business, building & support
x
x

x

4.4
Other services
1.2
2.7
1.2
4.4

Data Source: Statistics Canada

A Guide to the BC Economy and Labour MarketA Guide to the BC Economy and Labour Market