Statistics Canada says wages in New Brunswick are falling further behind the rest of the country and are in danger of shrinking this year, for the first time in the province’s history.
Across the country, wages are running an average of $10.23 a week higher than they were in 2012. But in New Brunswick, wages are averaging $5.32 a week lower than last year, which is the worst in the country.
New Brunswick has never registered a year where average wages dropped since Statistics Canada began keeping comprehensive records in 1939.
Wages will need to post strong gains this summer and fall to prevent the province from ending the 74-year streak of posting higher wages.
Andrew Grenier and his friends are graduating as welders this week but they're not getting higher wage jobs as they had hoped when they started their program because they can't find any in New Brunswick
"People don't like to hire first year apprentices because they don't have the shop experience so to get the shop experience you've got to go out west," Grenier said.
New Brunswick's economy has been struggling with an unemployment level above 10 per cent since July 2012.
The province has also lost hundreds of jobs over the past year and many of them were highly paid, a development that has been driving average wages in the province down.
Part of the problem has been the windup of projects, such as the refurbishment of NB Power’s Point Lepreau Generating Station, which had been supplying hundreds of high-paying skilled jobs.
On top of that, the provincial government has been signing collective agreements with zero per cent wage hikes with its workers for several years.
Even thousands of low wage jobs that got a boost last spring when the minimum wage jumped to $10 an hour have been unable to push average wages up.
Workers, such as Shelby Instho, noticed an increase in his hourly wage did not translate into more money at the end of the week.
"When they put the minimum wage up, the problem with some of the places where I would work is that they cut our hours back and that made it hard as well," he said.