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Slow economic growth means another year of modest wage increase, research group says

Canadian workers in non-union jobs can expect "muted" wage hikes next year, with the lowest increases going to workers in Alberta and in the oil and gas industry, the Conference Board of Canada said Wednesday in a new report.

High-technology sector expected to lead wages gains

With Canadian employers being cautious, wages increases across the country will be modest next year, the Conference Board of Canada says. (Karin Larsen/CBC)

Canadian workers in non-union jobs can expect 'muted" wage hikes next year, with the lowest increases going to workers in Alberta and in the oil and gas industry, the Conference Board of Canada said Wednesday in a new report.

The research organization said average base pay increases will be about 2.2 per cent, with 2.3 per cent in the private sector, and 2.0 per cent for the public sector.

"The economic growth we saw in the first quarter of 2016 quickly tapered off and the energy sector has been hit particularly hard," said Allison Cowan, director of the Conference Board's compensation research centre.

"While conditions are expected to improve, Canadian organizations are being cautious and opting for another year of modest wage increases," Cowan said.

Workers in the the high-technology industry could see the largest average pay hikes, at 2.8 per cent, the Conference Board said. The food, beverage, and tobacco products; and the finance, insurance, and real estate industries are all expected to see a 2.7 per cent average increase.

Meanwhile, the oil and gas sector, which has been battered by low prices for crude, spending cutbacks and layoffs, will see an average increase of 1.1 per cent. 

The Conference Board said wage increases for unionized employees are projected to be 1.5 per cent next year, with no difference between the public and private sectors.

Regionally, Alberta saw the lowest wage increases in 2016 and it is projected they will experience the same in 2017 at just 1.4 per cent. 

Manitoba to lead

Workers in Manitoba are expected to have the highest pay raises with an average projected increase of 2.7 per cent, followed by Quebec and British Columbia, where workers can expect salary gains at 2.5 per cent. Increases of 2.4 per cent forecast for Ontario and Saskatchewan at 2.4 per cent, while the Atlantic provinces are projected to see increases at just 1.9 per cent.

The wage outlook is based on responses from the 383 organizations who participated in the Conference Board's compensation planning outlook survey.

Canadian job creation for this year is projected to be weak at 107,000 jobs, the worst performance since the 2008-09 recession, the Conference Board also said.

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