BUSINESS
06/26/2014 03:22 EDT | Updated 06/26/2014 03:59 EDT

Oil, Gas, Mining Workers See Stunning Wage Growth, But Job Creation Is Fizzling

Roger Milley via Getty Images

Workers in Canada’s oil, gas and mining sector have seen average salaries soar 13.3 per cent over the past year, according to new data from StatsCan.

The survey of earnings and hours for April shows the sector created 7,200 new jobs over the past year, amounting to a 3.2-per-cent increase. Workers in this sector were, on average, earning $12,600 more this spring than last.

Utility company workers also saw enormous wage gains -- 10 per cent in all, amounting to an $8,400 annual pay raise, on average. But before you rush out to apply for a job at your local cable company, note that the total number of employees in utilities actually dropped slightly, by 300 jobs, over the past year.

Most industries aren’t seeing wage gains like this, however, and overall wages rose 3.3 per cent in the year to April, StatsCan data shows.

Some sectors of the economy, such as education, are seeing declining salaries (see slideshow below).

Story continues below

Photo gallery Biggest, Smallest Wage Hikes By Industry See Gallery

The strong wage growth in oil, gas and mining may be evidence of what Employment Minister Jason Kenney this week described as a looming skilled worker shortage.

Kenney, like many other policymakers, is concerned that Canada’s workforce, one of the world’s most highly educated, isn’t well matched for the sort of trades-related jobs that Canada’s natural resource-heavy economy is churning out these days.

Critics suggested that Kenney may have been simply justifying the continued existence of the controversial temporary foreign worker (TFW) program. However, most economists would agree that wage hikes at the levels being seen in oil and gas are indicative of a legitimate worker shortage.

The food services industry, where the use of TFWs is most controversial, saw wage gains of 2.3 per cent over the past year, lower than the overall average. These subdued levels of growth are not associated with worker shortages.

Even in Alberta, where many restaurant owners say they can’t maintain staff levels without TFWs, there was little upward pressure on food services wages. They were up 1.7 per cent, or $6 per week, over the past year.

The StatsCan report also found Canada has created just 115,000 net jobs in the past year, an increase of 0.8 per cent and not enough to keep up with population growth. The country lost more than 18,000 jobs in April alone, the survey shows.

Those numbers show the same trend as StatsCan’s more closely-watched, earlier labour force survey, which showed nearly 30,000 jobs lost in April.