Dawson offers a superior quality of life rich in Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in culture and is best known for our Klondike Gold Rush history. Dawson City offers a wide variety of lifestyle choices, employment opportunities, and activities and our social life is bustling year-round. In addition to its picturesque landscape and surrounding wilderness, our community has a vibrant arts and culture scene, year-round events and festivals, and a thriving business community. Our population includes an eclectic mix of old-timers, new-timers, miners, entrepreneurs, artists, and adventurers of all kinds.
The following is an overview of Dawson at the time our Official Community Plan was completed (2019). It is intended to inform decision making by providing background information about the economy and demographic makeup of the city.
Prominent economic sectors in Dawson generally align with those seen in the Yukon, tourism and resource extraction are especially important to the local economy. Based on 2016 Statistics Canada employment numbers, the leading economic sectors in Dawson are
• public administration
• health care and social assistance
• accommodation and food services
• arts, entertainment, and recreation
The prominence of jobs in accommodation and food services, mining, and arts, entertainment and recreation directly impacts Dawson’s demographic profile, as these jobs tend to have younger work forces.
Placer mining in Dawson is a defining component of the landscape, where active claims are worked throughout the goldfields. Although placer mining now uses modern technology and is subject to a set of regulations, it retains many of its historic characteristics. Mining is still an uncertain endeavor that requires heavy investment in time and money without guaranteed return. The work is hard, and the environment in which it takes place is harsh. Most miners do it for the lifestyle and the sense of pride, accomplishment, and community that comes from carrying on the region’s long tradition.
Lastly, culture and tourism have become mainstays of the economy. Tourists come from all over the world to visit Dawson City, where our cultural heritage is evident in local land forms, infrastructure, buildings, structures, sites, routes, venues, events, people, and cultural practices. Many people choose to live in the region and carry on the lifestyle that has become emblematic of the region.
Planning requires an understanding of Dawson’s demographic profile: Who are Dawson’s residents? Why do they choose to live in Dawson? And why do they choose to leave? According to the Yukon Bureau of Statistics, the population of Dawson and the immediate surrounding areas is around 2,350 (December 2018). Although Dawson typically sees moderate growth and regression each census year, it experienced a 4.2% growth between the 2011 and 2016 federal censuses.
A clear feature of Dawson’s demography is that it consistently gains residents in their 20s. Like a university town, Dawson has a high capacity to attract young adults. Usually these residents migrate to Dawson seeking adventure and a unique experience. These individuals, particularly those in their late 20s, have a high potential to settle long term and start families, thereby increasing the population. In addition to gaining residents in their 20s, Dawson has a moderate tendency to gain residents in their 40s; causes for this gain are unknown.
Although in-migration of residents in their 20s is strong, past census information also shows the out-migration of residents in their 30s, suggesting that as these residents age they move away. Population decline is also seen from residents in their 50s. Causes for this out-migration may vary.
Growth Projections and Trends
The Yukon Bureau of Statistics completed growth projections for Dawson in 2016. The most likely scenario projected the 2030 population at 2,720, an increase of 560 people compared to the 2016 population.
Based on the historic and projected population profile of Dawson, the community demography tends to remain relatively unchanged. Overall, the demographic projections for Dawson suggest the population will age moderately, with a mean age of under 40. Dawson has many employment opportunities for residents and is successful in attracting new residents during what is usually the most critical age to bring them into a community. To create growth in the community, Dawson must retain its residents for the long term.