Nova Scotia

Wages up across some sectors in N.S., but still lag behind inflation, experts say

Economist Lars Osberg says with the increase in inflation, the value of wages have trended downward even as strides are made in some industries in Nova Scotia.

'Inflation is seven, eight per cent, so it's a major issue,' says Dalhousie professor

Lars Osberg, a Dalhousie economist, says the buying power of wages in Nova Scotia has been trending downward. (CBC)

New data from Statistics Canada shows that wages in the Atlantic provinces grew at almost double the national rate between April and June of this year due to wage increases in key sectors across the region.

But despite the growth, some experts say the buying power of wages is still falling because of inflation.

"Wages haven't kept up with inflation, so real wages have been trending down," said Dalhousie University economist Lars Osberg.

In its most recent report on GDP, income and expenditure for the period between April to June this year, the federal agency detailed an increase in employee compensation across Canada, led largely by wages in mining, oil and gas extraction, and professional and personal services.

Nova Scotia saw the third-highest wage growth among the provinces and territories at 3.9 per cent, behind New Brunswick at 4.1 percent and Newfoundland and Labrador at four per cent.

Some sectors in N.S. see wage boost

The professional and personal services industry was instrumental in pushing up wages across the Atlantic region and in Nova Scotia specifically. Wage increases in health and social services, finance, real estate and company management were recorded, as well.

A Statistics Canada map shows the Q2 increase in wages across the country. The portion of the map including the Atlantic province is enlarged to clearer show the increase in those areas.
This map from Statistics Canada shows the average wage increases across the country from April-June, 2022, compared with the first three months of the year. (Statistics Canada Table 36-10-0205-01)

Jobs in the professional, scientific and technical services include those in legal services, architecture and engineering, computer systems, scientific research, advertising and public relations, said Statistics Canada spokesperson Maryse Carrière.

Inflation, however, has climbed much more quickly than wages in the province. Data from Statistics Canada show the consumer price index — which tracks how much the average Canadian household spends on a fixed selection of goods and services — rose about 8.7 per cent in Nova Scotia from July 2021 to July 2022. 

According to Osberg, the difference between inflation and the wage increase is the decline in the real value of wages, which in Nova Scotia's case would be about 4.8 per cent.

Buying power slides

Casey Warman, a fellow economics professor at Dalhousie, echoed the sentiment and said Nova Scotians are in  a worse position financially than they were before the pandemic, due largely to the spike in inflation.

"Inflation is seven, eight per cent, so it's a major issue. If inflation is two per cent a year, it takes prices 35 years to double. If inflation is around seven per cent a year it takes prices 10 years to double," Warman said, though he added the inflation rate is not expected to stay at this level over the next decade.

"If [Nova Scotians] wages don't keep up, they're going to lose purchasing power," Warman added. "If we can't get inflation down quick enough then all of a sudden, everyone starts asking for higher wages, it gets even harder to combat."

Osberg said inflation is affecting all of North America and some parts of Europe. The Canadian and Nova Scotian market, specifically, also has to deal with "the pressures on the housing stock that come from population growth, a surge in rent, in rentals and the decline in vacancy," he said.

Some good news

It isn't all bad news, though. Both Osberg and Warman said that nationally and provincially, the number of jobs has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.

"The labour market has definitely recovered from COVID-19," Warman said. "If we look at the average between 2015 and 2019, we're right around that level for the employment rate and, actually, below it for unemployment," in Canada, he added.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Danielle Edwards is a reporter with CBC Nova Scotia. She has previously worked at The Canadian Press in Halifax and the Globe and Mail in Toronto covering a variety of topics. You can reach her at danielle.edwards@cbc.ca

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