How much do people in different NWT communities make?

The 2021 census data sheds light on the amount of money people can expect to earn in different communities in the Northwest Territories.

Released last week, the figures show residents of Norman Wells and Yellowknife in general have the highest earning power. They also show a chasm between large and small communities that, for the most part, is not closing.

Data measures median earnings. In other words, if you took everyone’s income in a community and stretched the numbers across a row, the numbers shown here would be in the middle of each row.


We have chosen to focus on two types of income:

  • personal income, which shows the median value of the income each individual earns in a community; and
  • household incomewhich shows the median value of income each household earns in a community.

Aklavik has the lowest numbers on each of these lists for 2020, the year measured in the last census.

In Aklavik in 2020, the median personal income was $28,000 and the median household income was $55,200.

Fort Liard, Kátł’odeeche First Nation, Fort McPherson and Ulukhaktok are among other communities with similarly low annual incomes.

This table shows the latest data. Twenty-two communities are included – the rest are considered too small for data to be published. Click on any header to sort the columns:


The Canada-wide median personal income is $41,200, according to Statistics Canada, and the national median household income is $84,000.

Only six NWT communities listed above exceed the Canadian median personal income. In terms of household income, however, most communities exceed the national average. This can be partly explained by the fact that more people occupy each household in the NWT (2.7 people per household in the territory compared to 2.4 in Canada as a whole, according to the same census).

The most recent data can be compared to the results of previous censuses to get an idea of ​​the evolution of income in each community.

These numbers are not adjusted for inflation, which generally results in revenue growth over time as costs increase. Prices have increased by around 44% between 2000 and 2020, but that does not necessarily mean that incomes have followed suit.

Incomes in many small communities have actually more than doubled in those two decades, according to census data, but that also doesn’t reflect the changing cost of living, which statisticians say can be difficult. to be measured and tracked in remote areas.

The Covid-19 pandemic had an impact on the territory’s 2020 figures.

Pandemic relief benefits helped NWT median earnings rise 5.6% that year, while Canada-wide media revenues fell 2.1%, Bureau says NWT statistics.

This may mean that some communities see income growth falter, or reverse, come the time of the next census.

In some communities, personal income was already declining between 2015 and 2020 despite the impact of pandemic benefits. Take a look at Norman Wells, the highest line, and Fort Simpson in purple in the chart below.

Median personal income fell in these two communities over this five-year period, but rose everywhere else.

Łútsël K’é, in particular, saw a significant increase in personal income between 2015 and 2020, nearly doubling from around $22,000 to just under $41,000.

The reasons for such changes are not easily pinpointed with precision, but it should be noted that the Thaidene Nëné Protected Area was opened at this time. Thaidene Nëné was envisioned in part as a way to strengthen Łútsël K’é’s economy through tourism revenue.

Despite some examples of improving fortunes in small communities, in general, larger regional centers maintain higher incomes and the gap is not closing.

Here’s how household incomes have changed.

At first, the distance between community household incomes may seem smaller than for their personal incomes.

But the extremes are surprising.

The median household in Norman Wells earned $160,000 in 2020. In Aklavik, the median household earned just a third of that amount.

Overall – thanks in large part to Yellowknife’s large population and healthy income numbers – the Northwest Territories has the highest median personal and household incomes in Canada.

The median personal income in the NWT is $56,800 (compared to the Canadian figure of $42,100) and the territory’s household equivalent is $127,000 (compared to $84,000 in Canada).

But in many communities, residents’ incomes are not nearly as healthy and the cost of living much higher than in larger centres.


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