Calgary

Albertans now earn $1,168 per week, the 2nd-highest level on record

Earnings haven't been this high since January 2015 — but there's a bit of a catch: the StatsCan numbers aren't inflation-adjusted.

Earnings haven't been this high since January 2015 — but the StatsCan numbers aren't inflation-adjusted

Average weekly earnings for payroll employees in Alberta climbed to $1,168 in August 2018. The province's peak, in nominal dollars, came in January 2015 at $1,174. (The Canadian Press)

Albertans' paycheques continue to grow and have now hit the second-highest level on record, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada.

Payroll employees in the province earned $1,168 per week, on average, in August.

That's up three per cent from the same time last year and it sets a mark that has only been exceeded once in the history of the province — back in January 2015, when earnings peaked at $1,174.

But there's a bit of a catch when making comparisons.

That's because Statistics Canada reports these numbers in nominal dollars — meaning they're not adjusted for inflation.

When you take inflation into account (using the consumer price index for Alberta), the peak in January 2015 works out to about $1,269 in current dollars.

To get a sense of how earnings compare to inflation, in general, take a look at the graph below.

The solid blue line shows weekly earnings over the past decade, while the dotted blue line shows the pace of inflation.

Basically, the bigger the gap between the lines, the more buying power those dollars had at that time.

The red lines on the graph show average weekly earnings and inflation at a national level.

As you can see, earnings in Alberta continue to be higher, with employees here now making about $160 more, per week, than the national average.

Wages vs. hours worked

The recent growth comes mainly from rising wages, says University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe.

"The increased earnings that we see is really primarily due to about a five-per-cent higher average hourly wage compared to October of 2014, when the recession began," he said.

There was also some growth, he noted, in the average number of hours worked per week.

"Before the recession, it was about 33 hours per week for your typical job in Alberta," Tombe said. "At the bottom of the recession, it was about 31 hours. And now, it's about 32. So the number of hours worked is still not back up to its pre-recession levels."

All these numbers come from Statistics Canada's Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours, which is based on payroll data. It doesn't include farm workers or people who are self-employed and not on a payroll.

Tombe says the latest data release adds more evidence to an increasingly evident trend.

"What we really saw today is a continuation of the trend that we've been seeing now for over a year and half — that the recession ended in late 2016 and, since then, we've seen average weekly earnings in Alberta just gradually increase."

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