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Pickering has experienced rapid growth in the post-war period. Between 1996 and 2009, the municipality experienced a growth rate of 12 percent (78,989 people to 100,273). Population growth has slowed considerably in recent years, growing only slightly between the 2001 and 2006 census. This is due mainly to development restrictions on land in the northern portion of the city. Negotiations are ongoing to permit development in this area. Consequently, the city has estimated that by 2023, Pickering will be home to nearly 170,000 residents. The province of Ontario has also designated Pickering as one of two municipalities in Durham Region as an urban growth centre.
A significant portion of Pickering residents are classified as visible minorities. According to the 2006 census, 10% of the city's population is Black, 9% South Asian, 3% Filipino and 2% East Asian. 65% of the population identifies as White.
The southern part of the city is mainly suburban, with industrial areas mainly restricted to the area around Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. Most of the suburban areas were built as subdivisions after World War II, starting in the area around Frenchman's Bay. Prior to the war, the few suburban areas in the township were the communities of Dunbarton, Fairport, Liverpool Market, and Rouge Hill.
The northern part of the municipality is mainly rural, primarily used for agricultural purposes. However, a number of communities exist in this area, and the locally controversial Seaton area also falls within this part of the city. The primary rural communities in Pickering are Claremont, Brougham, and Whitevale; however, a number of smaller communities exist throughout northern Pickering including the ghost town of Altona.
Pickering is home to the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, an eight-reactor facility with a capacity of 4,120 megawatts. The first station, Pickering A, opened with four reactors in 1971. Ontario Power Generation, the plants' operator, is the largest single employer in the city. In 2001, the wind-powered OPG 7 Commemorative Turbine was opened on the generating station site.
A number of manufacturers are also located in the city. Major employers include Yorkville Sound (audio equipment), the Canadian headquarters of Purdue Pharma (pharmaceuticals and health & beauty products), Hubbell Canada (electrical equipment), PSB Speakers - Lenbrook (stereo equipment) and Eco-Tec Inc. (industrial water purification and chemical recovery systems).
Pickering is also the home of the head office of the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation. MPAC is responsible for value assessment for property tax purposes for all municipalities in Ontario.
Pickering is a founding member of the Durham Strategic Energy Alliance or DSEA. The nucleus of the DSEA is primarily Pickering businesses such as Ontario Power Generation, Veridian, Wardrop Engineering, AECL, Intellimeter, Areva and Eco-Tec.
In 2006, Profit magazine recognized Pickering as one of the top 10 cities in Canada to grow a business.
The city council consists of a mayor, three regional councillors and three city councillors. The mayor and regional councillors sit on the council and also represent the city at Durham Regional Council. The city councillors sit on city council only. Pickering is divided into three wards, with one city councillor and one regional councillor representing each ward.
The current mayor is Dave Ryan
Police services in Pickering are provided by the Durham Regional Police from a division office located in the eastern section of the city. Officers from this location also patrol Ajax. Pickering Fire Services operates from four stations with a force of full and part-time firefighters. Three stations in the urban portion of the city are staffed with full-time firefighters. Claremont Fire Hall is now fully staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Ambulance/emergency medical services are provided by Durham Region.
Pickering is served by the Durham District School Board and the Durham Catholic District School Board. As of early 2007, the public board operates 17 elementary schools and two secondary schools, Dunbarton High School and Pine Ridge Secondary School (Pickering High School was previously located in Pickering, but was transferred to Ajax when the city boundaries were changed). The Catholic board runs eight elementary schools and one secondary school, Saint Mary Catholic Secondary School. Blaisdale Montessori School, a private school chain, has several locations throughout Pickering serving children from preschool age to grade 8. There is also a private elementary and junior high school there called Montessori Learning Centre. Also serving the Durham Region is Durham Secondary Academy & Middle School, an inspected private high school and middle school for grades 5 to 12.
Famous people and groups
- Sean Avery, NHL forward, currently plays for the New York Rangers
- Shelley-Ann Brown, Olympic Silver-Medallist bobsledder
- Yannick Carter, Canadian Football League linebacker and special teamer for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats
- Glenn Clark, head coach of the Toronto Rock.
- Ernie Coombs, better known as Mr. Dressup, resided in Pickering.
- Perdita Felicien, Athens 2004 Olympic 100m Hurdler
- Dale Goldhawk, journalist and consumer rights advocate.
- Alan Haskvitz, National Teacher's Hall of Fame educator lived and taught in Pickering. 
- Glenn Healy, Former NHL goalie, member of 1994 Stanley Cup Champions New York Rangers
- Kristen Holden-Ried, actor
- Kevin Hunter, Nationally renowned criminal defense lawyer, 2007 winner of the Sword of Jimmy Mica Ross
- Spider Jones, former professional boxer, media/radio personality, currently with CFRB radio.
- Andrea Lewis, singer, actor and songwriter
- Denis T. O'Connor, former Roman Catholic archbishop of Toronto.
- Karl Polanyi, professor of economics at Columbia University and author of The Great Transformation, resided in Pickering.
- Paul Peschisolido, Canadian Soccer player who played in England as a striker and is now the Manager of Burton Albion F.C.
- Jaime Peters, is a Canadian soccer player who plays in midfield for Ipswich Town in the United Kingdom.
- Sarah Slean, singer, grew up in Pickering.
- Tyler Stewart, Barenaked Ladies, drummer/singer lives in Pickering.
- Beverly Thomson, CTV co-host national morning show.
- Neil Young, rock singer-songwriter, spent part of his early years in Pickering, living on Brock Road. In Jimmy McDonough's biography Shakey, Young is quoted as saying, "When I first really started focusing on rock and roll was in Pickering. Brock Road."
- The 1957 CBC/Hollywood production of the classic television show Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans was filmed in Pickering. A farm at the corner of Valley Farm Rd. and 3rd Concession, owned by Arthur Gottlieb, was the setting for the 25-episode series. A fort and pond were built specifically for the show. The site is now a residential area.
- The Canadian television show Paradise Falls' first season was filmed in the village of Whitevale as was David Cronenberg's Dead Zone.
- The 1994 comedy "The Ref" with Dennis Leary and Kevin Spacey was filmed in part at Port Pickering Marina, on Frenchman's Bay.
- The 1995 family/adventure film Salt Water Moose starring Timothy Dalton and Lolita Davidovitch was filmed in and around Frenchman's Bay.
- The 1998 comedy/action film The Big Hit with Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Phillips, Avery Brooks, Christina Applegate and Elliot Gould, was filmed in part in Pickering near Petticoat Creek.
- The 2008-09 comedy/family soap "Jimmy" was filmed in Pickering near Dunbarton High School.
- The 2003 two-part mini-series "Lives of the Saints" based on Nino Ricci's award-winning trilogy co-starring Sophia Loren films scenes on a farm just north of Pickering.
- Pickering Museum Village has been used in the filming of Road to Avonlea, Little Men, and the films Anne of Green Gables and Lantern Hill.