Northern Ontario remains less educated than the rest of the province, according to a new report from Statistics Canada.

Despite its standing among the rest of Ontario, post-secondary education in the region has gone up in the last five years — and cities in the north are also well above the provincial average when it comes to high school education.

Laurentian University economist David Robinson says while the economy has diversified, northern Ontario is still dealing with a brain drain.

"The provincial government says it is," Robinson said. "The finance department's projections for northern Ontario's population are as flat as a dead worm for the next 25 years."

The report shows that nearly one quarter of the people in Timmins have not graduated high school and only about half of the residents in North Bay have a post-secondary education.

Retail biggest employer

The report also shows the retail sector employs more people in northern Ontario than any other sector.

The data from the National Household Survey shows there are 10,000 retail workers in Sudbury.

Derik McArthur, a Sudbury-based international vice-president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, said big retail industry is not a good sign for northern Ontario.

McArthur said another bad sign is the turnover of employees in retail stores is slowing down.

"They've built some seniority up," McArthur said. "With seniority comes increased hours of work, access to benefit plan. So people generally don't start job hopping when times get tough. They tend to stick it out where they are."

In North Bay, retail is the largest employer. But in Timmins, most people work in the mining and natural resources field.