Twenty-year-old Kyle Lohnes was born and raised in New Brunswick, but after studying 3D animation in Saint John following high school, he reluctantly joined the exodus of young people leaving the province to find work, eventually landing a job as an animator in Halifax.


New Brunswick has seen double the decline experienced by Canada's other two shrinking provinces, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, over the past three years. (CBC)

"I miss the close-knit feel that New Brunswick had, so I guess if there was the opportunity there that I have here, I probably would take it," said Lohnes.

"I love where I'm at right now. Halifax people are great, but I don't know, there's just something about the people I knew in Saint John."

The departure of young people like Lohnes has quietly helped transform New Brunswick into Canada's fastest-shrinking province.

Statistics Canada says while Canada has grown by a million people in the last three years, New Brunswick has shrunk by 3,497.

That's equivalent to the entire population of the Town of Dalhousie, and double the decline experienced by Canada's other two shrinking provinces — Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Statistics Canada's Patrick Charbonneau says the most recent numbers, which show the province lost 941 people during the first three months of 2015, is not only the biggest decline in the country, but the worst quarter the province has recorded in 35 years.

"It's the strongest decline since 1980," said Charbonneau.

Affects job growth, birth rate

New Brunswick's economy has produced no job growth in six years and Charbonneau says one of the largest drains on the province's population has come from people moving to other provinces — almost certainly in search of work.  

The agency says 2,787 people moved into New Brunswick during the first three months of this year, but 3,416 left.

It's the biggest mid-winter migration out of the province since 1976 and the 17th quarter in a row the province has lost more people to other provinces than it has gained

"What we know is that typically interprovincial migration is somewhat linked to the economy," said Charbonneau, noting it also has a dual effect of further driving down the birth rate.

New Brunswick women delivered only 1,580 newborns during the first quarter of 2015 — the lowest level recorded in any quarter in the province since modern records began in 1946.

Lohnes says he hopes he can return to New Brunswick someday, but does not see it happening anytime soon.

"I'm not sure. I can't really see it," he said.