Central and north Island economic sectors continue their evolution as world trade conditions affect the local economy and people migrate to the region.
Market and political volatility over oil and natural gas production and delivery have all but dashed glowing predictions from just two years ago of a promising new industry with jobs and economic benefits for all of B.C., the Island included.
But other economic drivers continue to buoy the Island’s economy as people migrate here from across Canada and around the world. In fact immigration – the majority of which is from other provinces, followed by migration from within B.C. and lastly from foreign countries – has been a primary reason for Island economic growth, according to Nanaimo Economic Development.
Population gains boost economic trade between trade regions, enhance the consumer base for business and expand the skilled workforce needed to attract new businesses.
Nanaimo and the central and north Island’s other major economic trade regions have had steady population growth over the past decade. Nanaimo’s population, according to Statistics Canada’s 2016 census, gained eight per cent over 2011 census figures. Nanaimo’s trade area, which includes the Nanaimo Regional District and the town of Ladysmith to the south, now comprises more than 164,200 people, representing 6.3 per cent growth from 2011 to 2016.
The Alberni-Clayoquot and Comox Strathcona regions trade area grew 3.1 per cent for the same period to more than 142,000 people and the combined populations of the central and north Island trade areas – which include the remainder of the Cowichan Regional District and the Regional District of Mount Waddington on the north Island – rose 4.3 per cent to more than 86,000 people.
Immigration and real estate investment has spurred a recent boom in residential and commercial construction, a major private-sector employment driver.
Retail trade, construction, accommodation and food services, educational services and professional, scientific and technical fields rank in the top six of the top 10 employment sectors in the Nanaimo region, figures that translate throughout the north and central Island’s major population centres, Courtenay-Comox, Nanaimo, Port Alberni and the Cowichan Regional District municipalities, but employment sectors have shifted in the past five years. Health care and social assistance now accounts for 15.1 per cent of all employment in the Vancouver Island Coast Region and is now the region’s largest employment sector, according to Statistics Canada, and the professional scientific and technical trade sector continues its steady climb on the employment as the Island economy continues to expand and diversity.
“If you looked five or six, seven years ago, the health care and social assistance sector used to be fifth or sixth and it didn’t really even make it to the top five in the last decade, whereas now it’s No. 1,” said Amrit Manhas, Nanaimo Economic Development. “Construction and real estate – that and retail – they’ve always been big for the central Vancouver Island and north Island and really the health care and social assistance is huge.”
The Black Press Extreme Education and Career Fair will be at 19 Wing Air Force Base in the Comox Valley on Thursday, Feb. 8. The event will take place at the CFB Comox Military Family Resource Centre from 12-6 p.m.
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