Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Alberta oil patch salaries rise 5 times faster than national average

An eye-catching headline to that effect appeared on the CBC News website yesterday.

At first blush that sounds really good. The working class not only lives, but is thriving, at least in Alberta! You immediately picture swaggering young men driving the latest muscled up 4X4 pick-ups and jetting off with their girlfriends on fancy vacations twice a year...

Here's why the story is misleading feel-good bullshit.

Fact: This cohort had a cumulative wage gain of 21% from 2001-2008. According to the Bank of Canada, inflation over that period was 17.3%. While this group's wages may have been going up "5 times faster" than everyone else, they were barely half a percentage point ahead of inflation. What this really means is that "everybody else" was losing ground over that period.

Fact: Our happy story conveniently ends in 2008. Guess what happened then? The recession! According to the Alberta Treasury Board the Alberta economy lost 25,000 jobs in 2009. Over 9,000 of those lost jobs were in the oil patch. The Alberta employment rate hit a 14 year high of 7.3 %. The unemployment rate for young men hit 13.9%.

Fact: From 2001-2008, when the fastest-growing wages of any group of workers in Canada climbed a total of 3.7%, or barely half a percent per year, the average price of a house in Edmonton, the heart of the oil patch, went from $133k to $332k. In other words, even that small sliver of the working class that was doing exponentially better than everyone else was being priced out of the housing market.

There you have it. It's rather the opposite of a feel-good story when you look at the facts.

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