Jenna Pitre

Jenna Pitre is graduating this week from Harbour View High School in Saint John this week. She said people need more job opportunities if they are going to stay in New Brunswick. (CBC)

New Brunswick's ongoing population decline accelerated during the first three months of 2014, according to new figures from Statistics Canada.

Statistics Canada reported on Wednesday that New Brunswick lost 940 people during the first three months of 2014. That's more than the total population decline recorded in all of 2013.  

The province now has an estimated 754,524 people, down nearly 2,500 since mid-2012. 

Figures show the decline is being driven largely by an enormous move west by provincial residents, one that many in New Brunswick continue to contemplate.

Tom MacDougall said he knows many young people are considering the move. MacDougall is the valedictorian for Harbour View High School in Saint John.

Although he plans to attend university in Fredericton, MacDougall said many of his classmates have already made plans to move west after they graduate this week. 

"Some people are going out west  as soon as they leave the graduation ceremony on Friday," said MacDougall.

Jenna Pitre, another Harbour View graduate whose stepfather and brother both travel to Alberta regularly to work, said people need more opportunities to find work in New Brunswick if they are going to stay.

"I'd like to see more jobs here," said Pitre.

"It'll be easier when they can finally come home and work here. It's hard having them out west all the time. It's difficult."

Oil workers

Statistics Canada says 72 per cent of the people who left New Brunswick in the last 12 months moved to Alberta. (CBC)

Although thousands of people move back and forth across the country every year, ​Statistics Canada says 3,278 more people left New Brunswick for other provinces during the last 12 months than moved back.

People moving to Alberta accounted for 72 per cent of those losses. 

That exodus combined with normal resident deaths has overwhelmed growth from new births and international immigration to send New Brunswick's population into a steady decline.

Since July 1, 2012, figures show New Brunswick has dropped 2,473 citizens, joining Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia as the only three provinces to shrink over that period.

Meanwhile, the rest of the country has added more than 670,000 people.