Best Cities for Work in 2015

Home is where the heart is—but a good paycheque doesn’t hurt. We gathered data on 36 cities throughout the province, ranking them according to their job markets

Whether you work to live or live to work, the place you set down roots matters. And the reality is, some cities are superior when considering not only your job but also your job market. How are your neighbours faring? If not so well, could that be you tomorrow?

We knew that ranking B.C.’s cities on the quality of their job markets would be a controversial exercise—one that required hard data. For that we reached out to Environics Analytics, a Toronto-based analytics firm that compiles data from sources like Statistics Canada on hundreds of cities across the country. We created, tweaked, debated and ultimately settled on a methodology, weighing certain criteria, like income growth, more heavily than, say, unemployment (a full accounting below).

And what we found was a pattern: the cities with higher incomes also tended to have the lowest unemployment. They tended to have growing populations. In short, no matter how we sliced the data, our ranking remained relatively unchanged. Metro Vancouver dominated the top of the list alongside boom towns Fort St. John and Dawson Creek. On the other end: cities like Prince Rupert and Terrace, whose fishing and forestry industries have lumbered through a decade of decline. Yet even there, at the centre of a hoped-for LNG boom, the fortunes of those northwestern cities—and their positions on our list—could shift dramatically in the years to come.

In the meantime, we believe this first-ever ranking serves as a valuable big-picture snapshot of B.C.’s job market as it stands. We hope you find the Best Cities list useful and informative—but if not, send us a note.

How Fort St. John and Dawson Creek cracked the Top 5

To understand how dramatically fortunes have shifted in Peace River Country, consider the story of Lori Ackerman. Ackerman, acclaimed in November’s civic elections for a second term as Fort St. John’s mayor, moved to Dawson Creek—some 75 kilometres down the Alaska Highway—in the early ’80s to join her husband, who had found work in the construction business…

Exploring the growing appeal of B.C.’s second cities

When it comes to where you live, the choice needn’t be all or nothing: big, expensive city or small town with reasonable real estate prices. Beneath the skyscrapers and beyond the farms, there are the Victorias and Kelownas—cities that, while not international hubs, still have diverse job markets and no shortage of quaint cafés and cool bars. They also rank quite well, according to our list…

How LNG could shift the fortunes of B.C.’s northwest cities

To look at our list of Best Cities for Work in B.C., you might think that Terrace is in an unenviable spot. And yet, if all the projections for natural gas riches are true, there is nowhere to go but up—potentially way, way up. The northwestern hub of some 16,000 residents is literally at the crossroads of the expected action with Prince Rupert to the west and Kitimat to the south…

Why Metro Vancouver will always come out (almost) on top

When Richard Florida, arguably the most famous urban theorist alive, took the stage at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre last fall, he told a sold-out crowd that he loved B.C.’s biggest city, calling it one of the most beautiful on the planet. But more than that, Florida argued that Vancouver is where B.C.’s future lies. That future is linked to the rise of the “creative class”…

To see our data mapped, click one of the infographics below


To evaluate the Best Cities for Work in B.C., we looked at seven economic indicators, each weighted differently, that we believe reflect the health of a city’s job market. Each statistic was divided or multiplied to come up with a score suitable to its weighting. For example, labour participation (the percentage of working-age people active in the job market), which accounts for 10 per cent of a city’s score, was divided by 10; so Fort St. John, with a labour participation rate of 81.18%, received 8.118 points toward its total score. Cities were then ranked in order of these totals, from highest to lowest.

A note about exclusions: We only considered cities with more than 10,000 permanent residents. We excluded bedroom communities, such as West Vancouver, Port Moody and White Rock, which have high incomes but relatively small job markets. And for North Vancouver and Langley, we measured the districts, not the cities.

Finally, it should be mentioned that while we believe Environics’ data is the best available, it is not without its limitations. Our income numbers, for example, are produced using Statistics Canada and Canada Revenue Agency data projected forward to 2014. Calculations were made in October 2013 and may miss recent economic shocks, particularly in smaller cities most sensitive to them (for example, a mine closure or, conversely, a sudden uptick in LNG-related activity).
How we calculated points: For 5-year income growth, worth 30%, we multiplied the percentage increase by 150%. For average household income, worth 20%, we divided incomes by 10,000. For 5-year population growth, worth 10%, we divided the percentage increase by two. Cities with a population decline received 0 points. For unemployment, worth 15%, we subtracted the rate from 15. So, a 10% unemployment rate equal 5 points, a 5% one, 10 points. For labour participation, worth 10%, we divided the rate by 10. For people with degrees, worth 10%, we multiplied the percentage by two then divided that number by 10. Finally, for people using transit, worth 5%, we divided the percentage by 10.