Changes in Median Household Income in BC's Regions
The Urban Futures Institute
Over the past five years, BC’s median before-tax household incomes grew by 14 percent, going from $52,709 in 2006 to $60,333 in 2011. While the rate of growth in BC’s median household income was on par with the national average (also 14 percent), BC’s 2011 median household income remained below Canada’s $61,072.
Within British Columbia, median household incomes demonstrate significant variance across the province’s 29 Regional Districts. Much like the Canada-wide pattern, relatively high median household incomes are concentrated in resource-rich regions of BC, where the Mining, Oil & Gas sectors are figure prominently into regional economic activity. As evidence of this, the three top regions for median household income in BC were the Northern Rockies ($82,605), Peace River ($76,982) and East Kootenays ($66,049).
While the Northern Rockies and the Peace River also had the province’s highest incomes in 2006, the 2011 incomes reported in the East Kootenay Regional District represent an unexpected finding. Compared to its current third-place ranking, the East Kootenays only had the 8th highest income of BC’s 28 Regional Districts in 2006.
Further to this, the 25.4 percent growth in the East Kootenay’s median household income between 2006 and 2011 was the fastest of any region in BC over that period, although the Peace River region grew almost as fast, at 24.4 percent. Well back in third place was the Central Okanagan, which saw an 18.2 percent increase in its median household income over the past five years. The only Regional District whose median household income declined over this period was Stikine: a 13.2 percent drop in median household income gave the Stikine region the second-lowest median household income in the province, at $42,235. The lowest median household income belonged to the Central Coast region, which, despite an 18 percent increase in median income over the past five years, had a 2011 median household income of only $40,990.
Having briefly outlined the general changes observed throughout BC, it is interesting to further examine the substantial income gains experienced in the East Kootenay Region. One means of potentially explaining the reasons behind the gains is to consider the scale of employment growth throughout the region. Surely one would expect that a region with such robust growth in median incomes would have had to have experienced similarly robust growth in employment, no? The answer, actually, is no. Surprisingly, employment in the East Kootenay Regional District declined marginally (by 0.4 percent) between 2006 and 2011. So what could be driving the increase in median income?
If we consider the composition of employment change by industry, it is clear that employment growth in the East Kootenay region has been concentrated in industry sectors generally associated with higher incomes. On an absolute basis, Health and Social services added 535 jobs since 2006, in addition to the 470 more jobs in the Mining, Oil & Gas sectors. The growth of these industries is of particular importance, as they each represented ten percent of the District’s total employment in 2011. In addition to seeing job gains that were potentially at the upper end of the earnings spectrum, job losses were significant in retail trade (385 fewer jobs) and in accommodation and food (400 jobs fewer). Manufacturing also lost 670 jobs.
Hence, it seems that the underlying composition of employment in the East Kootenay Regional District could be contributing to the higher incomes in this region of BC. As always with these sorts of things, further research would be necessary to examine the extent to which wage gains have also been concentrated in the region’s growing industries.