Calgary

December earnings in Alberta show slight decline from previous year: StatsCan

Numbers from Statistics Canada show the total amount of compensation — earnings as well as benefits like Employment Insurance contributions and health coverage — Alberta workers collected in December fell 2.2 per cent from a year earlier.

Economists keeping an eye on whether latest data is a blip or part of a troublesome trend

Trevor Tombe, an economist at the University of Calgary, says December marked the biggest drop of monthly earnings outside a recession in the last 60 years. (CBC)

For Calgary pilot Santiago Andreas, the days of spending weekends away without keeping a close eye on the bank account are over.

He says his family is having a harder time making ends meet. 

"Life is a little tougher nowadays," he told CBC Calgary.

"Saving is harder every day, the amount of potential spending you can do is smaller and sometimes it's hard to get to the end of the month."

New economic data suggests he's not alone, as compensation hasn't grown to match the pace of inflation.

Numbers from Statistics Canada show the total amount of compensation — earnings as well as benefits like Employment Insurance contributions and health coverage — that Alberta workers collected in December fell 2.2 per cent from a year earlier, from $13.42 billion in December 2017 to $13.38 billion in December 2018.

Not only that, but when adjusted for inflation it was the biggest drop outside of a recession in the past 60 years, says University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe, who added that a long period with no aggregate growth in total labour income is unusual.

This graph compiled by economist Trevor Tombe shows year-over-year growth of Alberta's monthly labour compensation. (Trevor Tombe)

"Whether what Alberta is seeing now is a second recession, it's too early to know, but it's not too early to say that basically the pace of recovery has completely stalled," he said.

An index of nine economic indicators tracked by the province, like housing starts and earnings, also declined in December.

The Alberta government says that was partly due to low oil prices.

Tombe says economists will be watching to see whether the latest data is a blip or part of a troublesome trend.

With files from Reid Southwick

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