Albertans’ weekly pay is higher than those in other provinces

The Alberta government recently released data for weekly earnings in the province. I found data for all the provinces.

Alberta recently updated data for average weekly earnings of workers in the province, so I thought I’d write about it.

This data was uploaded to the government’s website on 16 April 2021 and covers the period between January 2001 and January 2021. It takes the weekly earnings of all payroll employees in Alberta (including overtime) then averages over each month. Amounts are seasonally adjusted and are in current dollars.

I’ve taken the data and sorted it to make it easier to compare, which you can find here.

Below is a chart showing the overall average weekly earnings per month in Alberta between January 2001 and January 2002.

We can see here that, overall, average weekly earnings in Alberta had been trending upwards, more or less, until about late 2014. During that period, weekly wages rose from $749.27 in January 2001 to a high of $1,327.31 in October 2014.

Over the next year and a half or so, average weekly earnings trended downward, dipping to $1,267.29 in May 2016. They stayed stagnant over the next 3 years, slowly starting to climb throughout most of 2019, but then dropping and rising again throughout 2020.

Prior to 2015, weekly earnings increased by $3.30 per month on average. Had Alberta continued to see such growth, average weekly earnings could have been at $1,975, about $200 more than it was at its 2014 peak.

Here’s what he numbers look like when we break it down into the goods-producing sectors and the service-producing sectors.

Interestingly, we see that while the goods-producing sectors seem to run parallel with the economic ups and downs of the overall average weekly earning, the service-producing sectors seem less scathed.

The service-producing sectors did see a dip in 2014/2015—similarly to the goods-producing sectors—but by early 2017, they seemed to be on a path to recovery. In fact, they surpassed the January 2015 high of $1,027.34 by March 2018, when they hit $1,031.35. December 2018 was the last time these industries have dipped below the January 2015 mark, even during the pandemic.

Over the last 20 years, the goods-producing sectors saw average weekly earning increase from $902.18 in January 2001 to $1,650.71 in January 2021, a jump of $748.53 a week.

During the same period, the service-producing sectors saw a $533.87 rise, from $596.35 to $1,130.22. That’s a 89.52% rise, compared to 82.97% for the goods-producing sectors.

Here’s further breakdown of the goods-producing sector:

The $0 datapoints for the “forestry, logging and support” don’t necessarily represent no weekly earning during those months. According to Statistics Canada, these data were “too unreliable to be published”.

In this graph, we see that all 5 of the goods-producing sectors increased in weekly earnings over the last 20 years. Here’s a more simplified view of that data:

200120142021% change
% change
Forestry, logging & support$726.07$1,200.02$1,366.0665.28%13.84%
Mining, quarrying, oil & gas$1,186.26$2,156.83$2,361.5381.82%9.49%

Of these 5 sectors, the utilities sector saw the largest increase (just a little over 94%) in average weekly earnings between January 2001 and January 2014. Manufacturing saw about half that, at 45.96%.

Between 2014 and this past January, the largest increase was in the forestry, logging, and support sector, which posted average weekly earnings that were nearly 14% higher. The construction sector barely saw an increase over the last 7 years: not even $3 a week more—the lowest increase of the group.

Now let’s do the services-producing sectors

That chart is super busy with 16 sectors on it. Here they are in a simple chart, listed from largest increase to smallest:

200120142021% change
% change
Management of companies and enterprises$888.95$1,963.93$1,948.25120.93%-0.80%
Other services (except public administration)$475.62$922.36$1,048.3293.93%13.66%
Public administration$722.06$1,271.38$1,555.7676.08%22.37%
Real estate and rental and leasing$656.05$1,130.71$1,287.5972.35%13.87%
Arts, entertainment and recreation$336.12$577.54$803.5471.83%39.13%
Wholesale trade$803.24$1,366.00$1,456.1470.06%6.60%
Educational services$631.82$1,070.92$1,218.1169.50%13.74%
Transportation and warehousing$722.69$1,188.88$1,360.8664.51%14.47%
Health care and social assistance$568.30$921.37$1,028.2762.13%11.60%
Professional, scientific and technical services$932.55$1,504.33$1,573.4261.31%4.59%
Administrative and support, waste management and remediation services$590.57$948.77$963.0460.65%1.50%
Information and cultural industries$713.70$1,131.28$1,388.9258.51%22.77%
Accommodation and food services$274.66$409.97$497.8449.26%21.43%
Finance and insurance$864.24$1,267.18$1,618.0446.62%27.69%
Retail trade$439.43$607.99$689.3338.36%13.38%

Management of companies had, by far, the largest increase in the first 13 years. Interestingly, it was the only one to see a decreases in earning since 2014.

The retail sector had the smallest increase in the first period, inching up to $168.56 a week, a 38.4% increase. The smallest increase in the second period was “administrative and support, waste management and remediation services”, which saw only a 1.5% increase, rising by just barely above $14.

The largest increase since 2014 (which includes two recessions) was the arts, entertainment and recreation sector, which increased by 39% from $577.54 a week to $803.54 a week.

The largest weekly earnings in 2001 was professional, scientific and technical services, which sat at $932.55 a week. By 2014, management of companies took the top spot with average weekly earnings of $1,963.93. Even with being the only sector who saw a reduction in weekly earnings, this sector still is in first place, making $1,948.25 a week.

The lowest average weekly earnings in 2021, on the other hand, were in the accommodation and food services sector. They occupied last place in the other two benchmark years, as well.

Here’s how our overall average weekly earnings compare to the rest of the country. First, just Canada.

Here, this chart shows that over the last 20 years, both Canada and Alberta have seen average weekly earnings increase across all sectors collectively. They seemed to have increased at roughly the same rate for the first 5 year or so, but then Alberta’s weekly earnings start to increase more quickly.

During the economic downturn in 2015, it seems that Alberta’s wages suffered more than Canada’s specifically, and since then, wages for the two appear to be increasing at the same rate again.

Now, here’s Alberta compared to the other provinces. It’s the red line at the top.

For the first few years, Alberta’s average weekly earnings were competitive with Ontario’s. Around 2005 and 2006, that started to change, as Alberta wages began to accelerate at a much greater pace than, well, everywhere else.

The 2015 recession hit Alberta the hardest. Very few of the other provinces saw a reduction in weekly earnings, most definitely nothing like the drop Alberta saw.

Since Alberta started recovering from the drop in wages–around 2018 or so—their rate of increase has been pretty much on par with the rest of the country.

One thing for sure, however, is that even with the 2009 crash, the 2015 recession, and the 2020 COVID-19 economic shutdown, Albertans are still paid more people living in other provinces. And it’s been that way for decades.

And in case you’re wondering, $1,390.47 a week—the average weekly earnings reported for Alberta in January 2021—works out to a little over $72,000 a year.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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