P.E.I. employers offering higher wages in tight labour market

Some of P.E.I.’s employers, struggling to find workers, are digging deeper to offer more money, according to a report from Statistics Canada.

Wages still lowest in Canada

There is a long-standing labour shortage in the trades on P.E.I. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Some of P.E.I.'s employers, struggling to find workers, are digging deeper to offer more money, according to a report from Statistics Canada.

The report found the average wage offered for vacant positions in the second quarter of 2021 was $18.55, which is 22 per cent higher than the $15.15 offered in the second quarter of 2019.

Four sectors saw particularly high increases.

  • Health: +29%.
  • Education, law and social, community and government services: +30%.
  • Sales and service: +16%.
  • Trades, transport and equipment operators: +21%.

Of these four sectors, the first two are largely controlled by government.

In a statement to CBC News, the province said it could not comment with full confidence on Statistics Canada's findings, but said any increase in pay it was offering was likely due to more full-time and permanent positions being offered in 2021, rather than an increase in hourly pay for similar positions.

Full-time and permanent positions generally pay more than temporary and part-time.

Higher wages in private sectors

Representatives from two sectors much in the news recently in connection with the labour shortage — construction and food service — said however that they have heard companies are offering more money.

"I think everybody is looking at having to offer higher wages in order to attract people that they need, so it's kind of just indicative of the future," said Carl Nicholson, president of the P.E.I. Restaurant Association.

Sam Sanderson, general manager of the Construction Association of P.E.I., said he is also hearing talk of contractors offering more money in the trades. The association has also taken a collective step toward improving compensation, negotiating a deal that allows many smaller operators to offer health and other benefits to their employees.

"We're working with many people in different areas," said Sanderson.

The Construction Association of P.E.I. has been working to help members offer benefits, says Sam Sanderson. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

"Some entertainment, some, you know, gym memberships and home heating oil and a few other incentives and membership benefits."

Benefits and work-life balance have become important factors in attracting and retaining employees, said Sanderson.

The need to increase wages comes at a difficult time for restaurants, said Nicholson.

The industry was one of the hardest hit by pandemic restrictions, and capacity in dining rooms remains below pre-pandemic levels given the physical distancing requirements. 

With restaurateurs struggling to gain back customers who remain uneasy about dining out, Nicholson said diners are not likely to see a difference on menus right away.

"You don't want to scare people away by increasing the price of the menu items too much during that time," he said.

With higher wages, restaurant prices are liable to go up eventually, says Carl Nicholson. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

"So you kind of take a bit of a hit and hope that come, when it gets busier, that you're able to get your full markup out of it."

Eventually, he said, restaurants will have to try to make up the increased cost of staff by raising prices on menu items.

Wages still lowest

Nationally, wages offered in 2021 over 2019 rose just seven per cent, but P.E.I. wages, the lowest in the country, still have a ways to go to catch up.

In July the average wage on P.E.I. was $966.55 per week, including overtime. That was 17 per cent below the national average of $1,133.18.

Nor does it seem the higher wages being offered in 2021 for vacant jobs have made a big difference yet in wages paid across the provincial economy.

In both 2019 and 2021, average wages dipped in the winter before growing in the spring and early summer. 

2019, however, saw higher wages than 2021 in those spring and summer months when compared to the preceding January.


Kevin Yarr is the early morning web journalist at CBC P.E.I. You can reach him at


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