Some Boom - Wages Up a Measly 1.4%

The first issue of a new quarterly publication from the Alberta Federation of Labour finds that weekly wages in Alberta are only up 1.4% in 2006, after accounting for inflation. The AFL launched Labour Economic Monitor today, which will track economic indicators and trends in Alberta.

"Everywhere we turn, we are told the boom is causing a spike in wages across Alberta. Business is complaining about the rising cost of labour," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "Yet, the statistics don't seem to be backing that complaint. On average, workers' wages are increasing only slightly ahead of inflation."

According to wage figures from Statistics Canada, in the first quarter of 2006, weekly earnings were up 4.9% over the first quarter of 2005. However, inflation in Alberta is running at 3.5%, meaning that workers are only seeing a 1.4% increase in their real wages. Weekly earnings measures how much a worker takes home at the end of a work week - not how much they are paid for each hour of work.

"Alberta workers have had stagnant wages for the better part of 15 years - all through the 1990s and early 2000s," observes McGowan. "And now at the height of the boom, we would expect workers to catch up a little bit, take advantage of the prosperity through larger wage increases."

"Quite frankly, it is not happening yet. Much of the small increase could be attributable to workers working longer hours and more overtime - rather than an increase in their hourly wage."

McGowan blames the small increase on two things. "First, the cries of labour shortage are overblown. If there was a widespread labour shortage crisis, we would see wages increase significantly. While there are pockets of shortages, on the whole the labour market seems rather stable."

"Second, the benefits of the boom are not working their way down to all working families in Alberta. Once again, large corporations enjoy a huge feast during a boom, and most workers are left with table scraps."

The AFL's new Labour Economic Monitor is intended to offer workers and average Albertans up-to-date economic information and analysis. It will be released quarterly on the AFL website. The first issue can be read here.

"The government and large corporations have access to the most up-to-date data about Alberta's economy to help them make decisions. Until now, working families have had no such information. Labour Economic Monitor is designed for them - to give them some of the same information that their employers' have," says McGowan.

"The AFL wants Alberta workers to receive their fair share of our prosperity. It is long overdue." McGowan concludes.

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For More Information call:

Gil McGowan, AFL President  @  (780) 218-9888 (cell)


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