N.W.T. median household incomes highest in Canada, but numbers vary widely by community

·3 min read
Yellowknife, as seen from the city's Tin Can Hill. The cost of living in Yellowknife has gone up more than the national average since this time last year. (Travis Burke/CBC - image credit)
Yellowknife, as seen from the city's Tin Can Hill. The cost of living in Yellowknife has gone up more than the national average since this time last year. (Travis Burke/CBC - image credit)

Median household incomes vary widely across the Northwest Territories according to the latest data published by the NWT Bureau of Statistics, but overall they exceed the national average by a wide margin.

The bureau recently reported that in 2020, 14 communities in the Northwest Territories had median household incomes above the Canadian average of $84,000, and seven had incomes less than that. All combined, median household incomes for the Northwest Territories stood at $127,000.

The statistics are based on 2021 census data.

At the top of the pile is Norman Wells with a median household income of $160,000.  Yellowknife ($148,000) and Hay River ($129,000) took second and third spot. At the bottom is Aklavik at just over $50,000, followed by the K'atl'odeeche First Nation and Fort Liard, both at under $70,000 in median household incomes.

NWT Bureau of Statisitics
NWT Bureau of Statisitics

The Dehcho region was reported to have the lowest household median income in the territory. The bureau withheld data for communities where populations were too small to avoid breaching confidentiality.

Median income is the income found in the middle of the full range of incomes. Households in the Northwest Territories, according to the bureau, are mostly couples with children (28 per cent), followed closely by one-person households (26 per cent) and couples living without children (approximately 19 per cent).

As for individual incomes, the NWT Bureau of Statistics reports that the territory has the highest median personal income in Canada at $56,800. That's a 15 per cent increase in median personal incomes since 2015. For the rest of Canada, the federal bureau of statistics reports the median personal income as $41,200 in 2020.

In the Northwest Territories, according to federal statistics, 8,425 individuals — approximately 26 per cent of those over the age of 15 — earned $100,000 or more in 2020, with 2,360 earning $150,000 or more. Compared to the rest of Canada, approximately 10 per cent of those aged 15 or older earned $100,000 or more.

NWT Bureau of Statistics
NWT Bureau of Statistics

The year 2020 also brought with it the federal COVID-19 pandemic relief program for workers who lost employment income because of the pandemic. In the N.W.T., 28.4 per cent of residents aged 15 or older took benefits under the program. That number was similar to the rest of Canada, but in the Northwest Territories the median benefit received in 2020 was $10,000, compared to $8,000 nationally.

Cost of living up in Yellowknife

While median incomes in much of the Northwest Territories outstrip those found in the rest of Canada, there's another statistic where the largest portion of the territorial population also beats the national average — the cost of living.

According to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) published by the NWT Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday, the cost of living increased in Yellowknife by 8.3 per cent since June last year. That's the city's largest annual increase since 1991.

It's also more than the average Canadian CPI increase of 8.1 per cent. Elsewhere in the North, Whitehorse's CPI increased 7.7 per cent over last year, and Iqaluit's increased 4.3 per cent.

The consumer price index tracks the cost of a range of items from gasoline to heating oil, to shelter to food. Yellowknifers saw an 11.6 per cent increase in the cost of food from stores, and a 4.2 per cent increase in the cost of food from restaurants. The cost of gasoline is up 45.2 per cent over this time last year in Yellowknife.

NWT Bureau of Statistics
NWT Bureau of Statistics
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