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BC Economic Regions

Introduction

B.C.’s economy is constantly evolving. And these changes affect the number and type of jobs available. Over the next decade, the demand for workers is expected to surpass the supply for many occupations.

Influences driving BC’s economy include:

  • the development of the provinces’ liquefied natural gas sector
  • an increased focus on small business and the service sector
  • a strong relationship with Japan, China, Korea and India making BC an important trade hub between Asia and North America

Several industries are expected to offer particularly strong job opportunities:

  • green technology, digital media and life sciences
  • traditional industries such as natural resources (expected to grow through innovation)
  • service industries including health care, high-tech and retail sales

Source: Work BC

British Columbia is a large province with seven different economic regions. The majority of BC’s population lives in the Mainland/Southwest region. However, there is a demand for workers in all regions of the province. This guide discusses job opportunities in each region of BC.

BC Regions

map of regions of BC

From Work BC, Statistics

Cariboo Region

Region Overview

The Cariboo is one of the fastest growing regions in BC. Located in central B.C., it is an area of vast landscapes and outdoor recreational opportunities. The population is 163,200, 4% of BC’s total population.

More than half of these people live in the city of Prince George, the largest city in the region. It is known as the northern capital of BC. Prince George is also home to the main campus of the University of Northern British Columbia.

map of Cariboo region

With a considerable number of large natural resource-oriented projects slated for construction across the north, existing Prince George businesses are already seeing an increased demand for their products and services. The city is seeing an influx of new businesses.

In response, the Prince George Chamber of Commerce established the project Consider Prince George, designed to recruit Canadian newcomers from other areas of BC.

For more information see:

Industries

Traditionally, the Cariboo region has been a resource based economy mostly focused on the forestry industry, mining, and oil and gas. The oil and gas sector is increasing in importance with the development of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG).

However, due to the large number of major projects proposed or currently underway, the professional services, construction and manufacturing sectors are among the fastest growing sectors in Prince George. In addition, the city is experiencing increased expansion in the healthcare and education sectors.

Top Growing Careers

  • Motor vehicle and transit drivers
  • Machinery and transportation equipment mechanics
  • Secondary and elementary school teachers
  • Paraprofessional occupations in legal, social, community and education services
  • Registered nurses
  • Masonry and plastering trades
  • Carpenters and cabinetmakers
  • Crane operators, drillers and blasters
  • Contractors and supervisors, industrial, electrical & construction

Sources: WorkBC Regional Profiles, MoveUp Prince George, Trade and Invest British Columbia

Kootenay Region

Region Overview

The Kootenay region is located in the southeast corner of British Columbia. The total population is 146,264.

The Kootenay region is a leading destination for outdoor activities including hiking, skiing, and fishing. It is also known for its wonderfully restored heritage towns, thriving arts communities and many cultural events.

Cranbrook is the largest city in Kootenay, with approximately 25,000 people. It is the center for commercial and government services.

There are two public colleges in the region, College of the Rockies with its main campus in Cranbrook and Selkirk College with its main campus in Castlegar.

Kootenay Region

map of kootenay region

WelcomeMap provides newcomers with a wealth of information about the Kootenay region including community introductions, a comprehensive directory of local services and lots of information essential to those arriving from outside Canada.

Find out more at:

Industries

Coal production, mining and logging are important industries in this area. Tourism also contributes to the economy.

The largest industries by employment are:

  • wholesale and retail trade (16.2% of workers)
  • health care and social assistance (13.7%)
  • construction (9.8%)
  • accommodation and food services (9.5%)
  • forestry, fishing, mining, oil and gas (8.0%)

Top Growing Careers

  • Physiotherapists and occupational therapists
  • Optometrists and chiropractors
  • Registered nurses
  • Physicians, dentists and veterinarians
  • Managers in health care
  • Cleaners
  • Motor vehicle and transit drivers
  • Secondary and elementary school teachers
  • Retail and wholesale trade managers
  • Home care providers and educational support occupations

Sources: WorkBC Regional ProfilesTrade and Invest British Columbia

Mainland / Southwest

Region overview

More than 60% of BC’s population, approximately 2.8 million people, live in the Lower Mainland / Southwest region. Vancouver is the largest city in the region and in the province.

People are attracted to the Mainland Southwest region because of the metropolitan atmosphere, diversity of job opportunities, multiculturalism, educational institutions, warm climate and recreation activities.

Mainland / Southwest

map of mainland - southwest BC

Industries

The service economy is very important in the Mainland/Southwest region, with approximately 83% of jobs in the service sector. Many of these service industry jobs support the businesses, banks and other companies that dominate the region.

The largest industries by employment include:

  • wholesale and retail trade (16.2% of workers)
  • health care and social assistance (10.6%)
  • professional, scientific and technical services (9.2%)
  • construction (7.9%)
  • educational services (7.7%)

The eastern part of this region, the Fraser Valley, has a strong agricultural economy. 

Top Growing Careers

  • Mine service workers and operators in oil and gas drilling
  • Underground miners, oil and gas drillers and related occupations
  • Contractors and supervisors, mining, oil and gas
  • Managers in natural resources production and fishing
  • Optometrists, chiropractors and other health diagnosing and treating professionals

Sources: WorkBC Regional ProfilesTrade and Invest British Columbia

North Coast and Nechako

Region overview

The North Coast / Nechako are separate economic regions but government reporting statistics often combine them because they both have small populations.

The city of Terrace has the largest population in the region, 15,569 people. Residence and tourists are attracted to the area because of the lifestyle and many recreational activities. Full-time wages are comparable to provincial averages, but housing (for both renters and homeowners) costs about 30 percent less.

There are many major projects under construction or in the planning stages in the North Coast region including the expansion of Rio Tinto’s aluminum smelter in Kitimat, a copper/gold project, hydroelectric projects and the terminal expansion at Prince Rupert. Proposed future projects include liquefied natural gas facilities and gas pipeline projects. These projects are bringing jobs and new opportunities to the area.

map of north coast region

map of nechako region

Industries

Natural resources, particularly mining, forestry, and fishing, have always played a critical role in the area’s economy. In recent years, the economy has shifted, with many significant investments in infrastructure, transportation and mining.

There is increasing possibilities that the North Coast and Nechako regions may participate in the oil and gas industry from Alberta and the Northeast region of BC.

Top Growing Careers

  • Underground miners, oil and gas drillers, and related occupations
  • Mine service workers and operators in oil and gas drilling
  • Managers in natural resources production and fishing
  • Contractors and supervisors, mining, oil and gas
  • Heavy equipment operators
  • Plumbers, pipefitters and gas fitters
  • Masonry and plastering trades

Sources WorkBC Regional Profiles, Trade and Invest British Columbia

Northeast

Region Overview

The Northeast is one of the fastest-growing regions in BC thanks to the rapid development of the energy sector. The Northeast region boasts the province’s lowest unemployment rate and there is a high demand for workers.

This is one of the least-populated regions of the province, home to just over 72,500 people. Fort St. John is the largest urban center in the region, with a population of 26,380.

The Northeast Region boosts some of the highest annual salaries in the province.  Housing is also affordable, and there are tax incentives for northern residents.

Northeast Region

map of northeast region of bc

Industries

The Northeast region of BC has a thriving economy. The region’s economy is based on natural resources, particularly natural gas production and coal mining. Another important industry is utilities. There are many power-generating projects in the planning stages. Other industries include logging, wood products manufacturing and agriculture.

The largest industries by employment include:

  • wholesale and retail trade (14.1% of workers)
  • construction (12.1%)
  • forestry, fishing, mining, oil and gas (9.8%)
  • transportation and warehousing (8.2%)
  • educational services (7.7%)

Top Growing Careers

  • Masonry and plastering trades
  • Carpenters and cabinetmakers
  • Crane operators, drillers and blasters
  • Service supervisors
  • Other construction trades

Sources: WorkBC Regional ProfilesTrade and Invest British Columbia

Thompson-Okanagan

Region Overview

Located in the interior of B.C., Thompson-Okanagan is a popular tourist destination. Its diverse economy is based on agriculture, tourism, the service sector, logging and manufacturing.

The pleasant climate and the many recreational activities have been credited for the region’s increasing population growth. Kelowna is the largest city in the region and the third largest city in the province. About three-quarters of the people in this region live in urban centres and one-quarter live in rural areas.

Thompson-Okanagan Region

map of thompson okanagan region

Industries

Agriculture, tourism, forestry and manufacturing are important industries in this region.

With its many orchards, vineyards and cattle ranches, the agricultural sector is a major contributor to the region’s economy. As a popular tourist destination, the region has a higher-than-average share of jobs in accommodation and food services. Many people are also employed in the healthcare industry.

The largest industries by employment include:

  • wholesale and retail trade (16.7% of workers)
  • health care and social assistance (12.2%)
  • construction (9.9%)
  • manufacturing (8.1%)
  • accommodation and food services (7.5%)

Top Growing Careers

  • Optometrists, chiropractors and naturopaths
  • Registered nurses
  • Managers in health care
  • Health services assistants
  • Cleaners
  • General office workers
  • Health services assistants
  • Motor vehicle and transit drivers
  • Physicians, dentists and veterinarians

Sources: WorkBC Regional ProfilesTrade and Invest British Columbia

Vancouver Island / Coast

Region Overview

Vancouver Island / Coast region is the second most populated region in BC, with almost 800,000 people. This region is known for its temperate climate, unspoiled wilderness and beautiful coastlines.

Victoria, the capital city of the province, is the largest city in this region and the oldest city in Western Canada. The region also includes several medium-sized cities and many smaller ocean-side communities.

Vancouver Island / Coast Region

map of vancouver island coast region

Industries

The service sector plays a major role in the region’s economy. Many people have jobs in health care, public administration, and accommodation and tourism. Other important industries include logging and fishing.

The largest industries by employment include:

  • wholesale and retail trade (15.6% of workers)
  • health care and social assistance (13.9%)
  • accommodation and food services (8.5%)
  • educational services (8.2%)
  • construction (8.0%)

Top Growing Careers

  • Registered nurses
  • Optometrists, chiropractors and naturopaths
  • Therapy and assessment professionals
  • Health care managers
  • Retail salespersons
  • General office workers
  • Paraprofessional occupations in legal, social, community and education services
  • Retail and wholesale trade managers

Sources: WorkBC Regional ProfilesTrade and Invest British Columbia

Additional Resources

 Fastest Growing Industries in BC

Other Industry Profiles in BC