New census data shows the population of the metropolitan area of Edmonton outpaced the national growth rate over the last five years.

Statistics Canada released the first batch of numbers from the 2016 census on Wednesday and the population of what the government agency refers to as the census metropolitan area of Edmonton increased by 13.9 per cent since the last census in 2011.

The area's growth rate was above the national rate of 5.0 per cent, while the population of Alberta increased by 11.6 per cent.

Land of opportunity

While the census report shows two-thirds of the country's population growth is from immigration, western provinces are still seeing migration from eastern Canada. 

Sinjin Bourgett, from Fredericton, New Brunswick, drove across Canada to Edmonton in August.

He said there was nothing for him in the eastern provinces.

'In the whole area of New Brunswick I just felt really limited in what I could do and what I was able to do," said Bourgett.

"My friend had moved out here to Edmonton a year before I made the move, and he had a room available for me."

Bourgett

Bourgett moved to Edmonton in August to pursue more opportunities.

He's now studying to be a video game designer at Edmonton Digital Arts College.

"There's more money here, I find," said Bourgett."There's more people willing to help you get to where you want to be, there's more ways to make money here."

Bourgett expressed optimism that the oil industry is still a strong job provider. 

"I know it's not really doing the best at the moment or it hasn't been as good as it was before but it's still, there's more here than there is back home."

Population in the census metropolitan areas is measured independently of municipal boundaries.

The population of the actual city of Edmonton was 932,546 in 2016, up from from 812,201 in 2011.

When the 2016 census was taken last May 10, the population of the metropolitan area of Edmonton was 1,321,426, up from 1,159,869 from the 2011 census. It factored in several municipalities around Edmonton, including Strathcona County, St. Albert, Leduc. 

Statistics Canada defines a metropolitan area as having a population of at least 100,000, where the urban core of that area has at least 50,000 people.

Commuting patterns and other factors are used in determining these census metropolitan areas. Looking at metropolitan areas this way takes in to account the growing impact of suburban areas on Canada's largest cities.

The census indicated that Edmonton ranked No. 6 among the country's 35 census metropolitan areas.

Canada's population on census day was 35,151,728, Statistics Canada reported.

The national census is conducted every five years.

The information published Wednesday is the first of several releases of data to come from Statistics Canada over the next year that will eventually paint a detailed picture of the country, right down to the local level — including age breakdowns of the population, family makeup, languages spoken, immigration and ethnic origin, the level of education attained and income earned.

Alberta saw highest population increase

Future census releases will give more insight to explain the reasons behind the population changes - whether it's related mostly to changes in birth and death rates, immigration or interprovincial migration.

At the provincial level, population levels in Alberta saw the highest increase at 11.6 per cent, followed by Saskatchewan (6.3 per cent) and Manitoba (5.8 per cent).

Growth in New Brunswick shrank by 0.5 per cent - the first time since 2006 a province has reported a negative growth rate.

Bourgett isn't surprised.

"Unless you were going to be an entrepreneur and start your own thing, it was really hard because it was in its own little bubble. I don't know the best way to explain it. Bad, I guess it's bad."

British Columbia's population levels increased by 5.6 per cent, compared with Ontario (4.6 per cent), Quebec (3.3 per cent), Prince Edward Island (1.9 per cent), Newfoundland and Labrador (1.0 per cent) and Nova Scotia (0.2 per cent).

Among the northern territories, the population grew by 12.7 per cent in the Northwest Territories, 5.8 per cent in the Nunavut and 0.8 per cent in Yukon.

Ontario is still the country's most populous province, with a population of 13,448,494.