Average Weekly Earnings: Wages vs. Hours & Salaries
Today, Statistics Canada reported a seemingly impressive monthly rise of 0.9% in average weekly earnings, from $906.24 in April to $914.68 in May. Digging a bit deeper reveals that average weekly earnings for workers paid by the hour – the majority of Canadian employees – edged up by only 0.2%, from $695.21 in April to $696.57 in May.
And that increase reflected a slightly longer workweek. Average hourly earnings for hourly employees actually edged down from $22.85 to $22.77 between April and May.
In other words, all of todayâ€™s reported gains in average weekly earnings resulted from Canadians working longer hours and higher salaries for salaried employees, rather than better wages.
This could be worse than it initially appears. There’s a fairly pronounced reporting bias in StatsCan wage figures – the latest month’s numbers are almost always high, and are usually revised downwards in the next month’s report. This is the case, at least, for the Alberta figures, which is what I mostly work with. If the same pattern holds true for nationwide data, it suggests that hourly wages for May will be revised down next month.
That said, there’s so much volatility in month-over-month wage numbers that I don’t pay a lot of attention to them.