Median household incomes in the NWT are the highest in Canada, but numbers vary widely from community to community

According to the latest data released by the Northwest Territories Bureau of Statistics, median household incomes vary widely across the Northwest Territories, but overall they are well above the national average.

The bureau recently reported that in 2020, 14 communities in the Northwest Territories had a median household income above the Canadian average of $84,000, and seven had incomes below that. All combined, median household incomes in the Northwest Territories were $127,000.

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 place. At the bottom of the scale is Aklavik with just over $50,000, followed by K’atl’odeeche First Nation and Fort Liard, both with median household incomes below $70,000.

The median household income in the Northwest Territories is well above the national average, but the number varies widely from community to community. (Northwest Territories Bureau of Statistics)

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

The median income is the income that falls in the middle of the full income range. According to the office, households in the Northwest Territories are predominantly couples with children (28%), followed closely by one-person households (26%) and couples living without children (about 19%).

When it comes to individual incomes, the Northwest Territories Bureau of Statistics reports that the territory has the highest median personal income in Canada at $56,800. This represents a 15% increase in median personal income since 2015. For the rest of Canada, the Federal Bureau of Statistics reports that the median personal income was $41,200 in 2020.

In the Northwest Territories, according to federal statistics, 8,425 people — about 26% of people 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, about 10% of people aged 15 and over earned $100,000 or more.

A graph showing the range of median household incomes in the Northwest Territories in 2020.
The range of median household incomes varied considerably in the Northwest Territories. (Northwest Territories Bureau of Statistics)

The year 2020 also brought with it the federal COVID-19 pandemic relief program for workers who have lost employment income due to the pandemic. In the Northwest Territories, 28.4% of residents aged 15 and over received benefits under the program. This 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 in Yellowknife

While median incomes in much of the Northwest Territories exceed those of the rest of Canada, there is another statistic where most of the territorial population also beats the national average: the cost of living.

According to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) released Wednesday by the Northwest Territories Bureau of Statistics, the cost of living has risen 8.3% in Yellowknife since June of last year. This is the city’s largest annual increase since 1991.

It is also more than the average Canadian CPI increase of 8.1%. Elsewhere in the North, Whitehorse’s CPI rose 7.7% from a year ago, and Iqaluit’s 4.3%.

The Consumer Price Index tracks the cost of a range of items from gasoline to fuel oil, housing to food. Yellowknifers saw an 11.6% increase in the cost of in-store food and a 4.2% increase in the cost of in-restaurant food. The cost of gasoline increased by 45.2% compared to the same period last year in Yellowknife.

A chart listing the items included in the Yellowknife Consumer Price Index.
The Consumer Price Index for Yellowknife includes a range of consumer items and goods. (Northwest Territories Bureau of Statistics)

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