The average Alberta worker made $40.60 an hour in 2019

While researching data for my recent story on labour productivity in Lethbridge, I came across a dataset regarding wages in Alberta. I found some of it interesting and thought I’d share some of it with you.

While researching data for my recent story on labour productivity in Lethbridge, I came across a dataset regarding wages in Alberta. I found some of it interesting and thought I’d share some of it with you.

First, did you know that the average compensation in Alberta is $40.60?

That’s nearly 3 times the minimum wage. And while that does seem to be a good thing, let’s remember that 1 in 8 Albertans made minimum wage or less as of last year. And 1 in 7 made $16/hour or less.

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Compensation growth in Alberta

How has average compensation fared over the years? Well, let’s look at the last 20 years:

It looks like, overall, compensation has consistently increased over the years. One intriguing thing however: even though $40.60 an hour might seem like a lot to some people—especially if you’re making minimum wage yourself—it’s not the highest it’s ever been.

In 2015, average compensation in Alberta was $41.43 and $41.24 the year before. It dropped to $38.83 in 2016, following the recession, and has yet to fully recover. Given the economic fallout of the oil price crash and the pandemic, there’s a pretty good chance it won’t fully recover this year either.

How does compensation growth in Alberta compare to other provinces?

Compensation in Canada

Last year, Alberta’s average compensation per hour was the highest of all the Canadian provinces. The province with the second highest compensation was Ontario, which was only $2.43 behind Alberta, and Saskatchewan, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador, was less than $1 an hour behind that.

Now onto compensation growth:

It seems all the provinces experience compensation growth over the last 20 years.

I did find one thing particularly intriguing: at the start of the reference period, Alberta was below both Saskatchewan and Ontario. Then, in the middle of the first decade, it overtook them both and widened the gap.

The 2015–2016 recession really took a chunk out of the wages in Alberta, while the other provinces came out relatively unscathed. They either all appear to have been unaffected by the recession or they full recovered from it.

This has allowed the next highest compensated provinces—Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Québec—to start to close the gap with Alberta.

Highest compensated sectors in Alberta

Now, while the average hourly compensation in Alberta is $40.60, remember that it’s an average, which means some people make less and some people make, well, more.

Here are the top 20 sectors in Alberta where workers are compensated the most:

Petroleum refineries$129.32
Petroleum and coal product manufacturing$107.54
Non-ferrous metal (except aluminum) production and processing$96.26
Resin, synthetic rubber, and artificial and synthetic fibres and filaments manufacturing$95.33
Basic chemical manufacturing$95.02
Other educational services$94.01
Monetary authorities – central bank$93.81
Non-conventional oil extraction$92.80
Pipeline transportation of natural gas$89.35
Pipeline transportation$88.21
Oil and gas extraction$87.62
Crude oil and other pipeline transportation$87.34
Conventional oil and gas extraction$84.51
Natural gas distribution$74.73
Energy sector$71.22
Natural gas distribution, water, sewage and other systems$70.91
Pulp, paper and paperboard mills$70.86
Electric power generation, transmission and distribution$70.12
Chemical manufacturing$69.92

And here are the 20 industries with the lowest compensation:

Taxi and limousine service$9.51
Motor vehicle electrical and electronic equipment manufacturing$10.00
Motor vehicle metal stamping$10.00
Animal production (except aquaculture)$11.96
Animal production$11.97
Crop and animal production$15.03
Automobile and light-duty motor vehicle manufacturing$17.22
Crop production (except greenhouse, nursery and floriculture production)$17.94
Miscellaneous store retailers$18.00
Personal care services and other personal services$18.26
Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting$18.33
Motor vehicle manufacturing$18.45
Food services and drinking places$19.11
Seafood product preparation and packaging$19.29
Crop production $19.35
Heavy-duty truck manufacturing$19.50
Clothing and leather and allied product manufacturing$19.57
Personal and laundry services$19.70
Gambling industries$19.76

None of the lowest 20 sectors even make half of the average compensation. In fact, 5 of them make less than minimum wage, and one of them is just barely above minimum wage.

That’s unlike the top 20 sectors, where 13 of them make at least double the average compensation, and the highest compensated sector makes triple the average and 862% more than minimum wage.

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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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