BEST CITIES FOR WORK IN B.C.
For our 4th annual report on WHERE TO WORK NOW, we hit the road to Dawson Creek and Campbell River
What are British Columbia’s top places to build a career? Start by following the money, but that isn’t the whole story. In our fourth annual Best Cities for Work in B.C. ranking, compiled with research partner Environics Analytics, we measure a city’s attractiveness as a place to work by putting a two-thirds weighting on how much residents earn and where income is heading. We use the seven economic indicators from the previous survey: average household income, household income for primary earners under age 35, average household spending on recreation, average shelter costs, five-year population growth, five-year income growth and unemployment rate.
Northeast oil-and- gas powerhouses Fort St. John and Dawson Creek return to the top three, with the former taking the lead from Squamish (No. 3 this year) and the latter climbing to No. 2. Lower Mainland residents might find those communities’ staying power surprising, given the persistent slump in fossil fuel prices and last summer’s cancellation of the Pacific Northwest liquefied natural gas megaproject. But anyone who’s visited Dawson Creek (see page 32) knows that the city is contending with a boom fuelled by multibillion-dollar investment in oil and gas extraction and infrastructure.
This year, to better gauge quality of life, we also take into account how many people walk or bike to work—arguably a better yardstick than the number who use public
transit. “The issue with mass transit is that it’s not going to be available in all cities,” says Peter Miron, Toronto-based vice-president, demographic and economic data, with Environics Analytics. “Walking and bicycling to work are enjoyable activities,” Miron adds. “Mass transit might be cheap, but it’s not necessarily adding to your enjoyment of life.”
When it comes to walking and biking, you’d think urban centres like Vancouver would have an edge. But our three top cities—all relatively small communities—did well in that category, too. “You’ve got a very strong accessibility factor, but it’s almost picking up not necessarily urbanity as much as quaintness,” Miron notes.
He warns against fixating on unemployment rates, which have dropped in most B.C. regions as the province builds on its strong economic performance in 2016. “If you see an area with very a low unemployment rate, it could be because everyone’s got a job,” Miron says. “But it could also mean that everyone who doesn’t have a job has now been so discouraged looking for work that they’re no longer in the labour force.”
Although the ranking shows where our 36 cities placed last year, those that climbed or fell shouldn’t make too much of it—and not just because we tweaked the methodology. As Miron explains, the data sets his firm uses get updated from year to year, sometimes leading to revisions of historical numbers. In any case, “the difference between middle cities is quite slim,” he says. For those communities, a small change in, say, five-year income growth can make a big difference in ranking order.
By the same standard, where they fetch up on the list won’t be the deciding factor for anyone weighing where to move, Miron reckons. “At that point, it’s probably a choice between the attributes that we haven’t got in the study: the charm of Campbell River, and the fact that Vernon happens to be next to a beautiful ski resort,” he says. “But whether or not you want to move there is going to be based more upon personal preference. There’s no bad choice.”
This year, to better gauge quality of life, we also take into account how many people walk or bike to work–arguably a better yardstick than the number who use public transit. “The issue with mass transit is that it's not going to be available in all cities” – Peter Miron, Environics Analytics