May 10, 2019 1:09 pm
Updated: May 10, 2019 11:22 pm

High-paying gigs are leading growth in Canada’s strong jobs market, economist says

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Canada added a record 106,500 jobs in April — the latest good news in what’s been a strong overall labour market.

But recent gains, such as those seen in Friday’s jobs report, have generated questions about the types of employment opportunities that are being created.

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A report released earlier this week from economist Brendon Bernard, however, challenges the idea that low-paying positions are leading recent job growth.

His analysis shows a trend of gains in high and middle-wage jobs, but no significant rise in low-wage positions compared with four years ago.

Using Statistics Canada data, Bernard found that during the 12 months leading up to March, the number of workers in high-paying roles had risen 11 per cent compared with the beginning of 2015.

By comparison, overall employment increased by 5.3 per cent during that timeframe, he pointed out.

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Middle-wage jobs rose 7.5 per cent, but lower-paying occupations declined by one per cent, he found.

Bernard looked at 40 occupation categories and their average hourly wages as reported in the Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, the data Canada uses to calculate employment rates and related stats.

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For the analysis, Bernard divided up the jobs into three earnings categories — the average hourly wage for the lowest tier was $18.41 per hour, $25.45 was the middle tier average, and the high-income average was $38.16.

While the report looked at the national picture, significant disparities exist across Canada when it comes to employment.

In April, for example, P.E.I had 8.6 per cent unemployment compared with 5.7 per cent for the entire country.

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The analysis has, however, shed light on the nature of job growth that has occurred under a strong overall labour market in recent years.

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Bernard said it wasn’t too surprising that Canada has seen growth in higher-paying jobs. He said the job gains reflect areas of the economy that are expanding, including business, finance, health care and sciences.

“When we think about some of the sectors that have been adding jobs in the Canadian economy in recent years, some that stand out are areas like the tech sector and health, and these are areas where a lot of the work is actually quite well paying,” he said on Thursday.

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While job gains were skewed towards high and middle-income jobs, according to his analysis, each of the three earnings categories showed similar growth in wages.

Between January 2015 and last March, average wages for lower-paying jobs grew by 9.6 per cent, Bernard found, while middle and high-paying occupations saw wages rise by 8 and 8.8 per cent, respectively.

Bernard partially attributed the increase in wages among lower-paying jobs to minimum-wage boosts in Alberta, Ontario and B.C.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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