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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:

  • attracting major project investment throughout the province
  • 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

Located in central B.C., the Cariboo is an area of vast landscapes and outdoor recreational opportunities. The population is 154,300, 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 City of Prince George established the Move Up Prince George initiative, designed to recruit workers 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.

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.

regions_of_bc_cariboo_industries

Chart from WorkBC

top 10 occupations for Cariboo region

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 19,259 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

Imagine Kootenay provides further information about working and living in the Kootenay region.

Industries

Coal production and mining are important industries in this area. Several hydroelectric dams are located in the region, creating employment in the Utilities industry.

Tourism also contributes to the economy.

top 10 industries in Kootenay

Chart from WorkBC

Top 10 occupation in Kootenay

Chart from WorkBC
Sources: WorkBC Regional ProfilesImagineKootenay, Trade and Invest British Columbia

Mainland / Southwest

Region overview

More than 60% of BC’s population, approximately 2.7 million people, live in the Lower Mainland / Southwest region. Vancouver is the largest city in the region and in the province. It is one of the most ethnically diverse areas in Canada.

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.

Major industry sectors include trade and financial services, transportation, education, secondary manufacturing and tourism. The eastern part of this region, the Fraser Valley, has a strong agricultural economy.

Top 10 Industries Mainland / Southwest

Chart from WorkBC

Top 10 occupations mainland / southwest

Chart from WorkBC

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.

Prince Rupert, Terrace and Kitimat are the largest cities in the region. Residents 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

More information about living and working in the region can be found here:

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 10 industries in North Coast and Nechako

Chart from WorkBC

top 10 occupations north coast and nechako

Chart from WorkBC
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 68,300 people. Fort St. John is the largest urban center in the region, with a population of approximately 20,000.

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

More information on working and living in the Northeast can be found here:

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.

top 10 industries in northeast

Chart from WorkBC

top 10 occupations in northeast

Chart from WorkBC
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

More information about the region can be found at:

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.

top 10 industries Okanagan

Chart from WorkBC

top 10 occupations in Okanagan

Chart from WorkBC
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.

top 10 industries in Vancouver Island / Coast

Chart from WorkBC

top 10 occupations in vancouver island / coast

Chart from WorkBC
Sources: WorkBC Regional ProfilesTrade and Invest British Columbia

Additional Resources

 Skilled Immigrant InfoCentre – Industry Profiles