How Much Are Employees in BC Earning?

  • March 21, 2014

BCBC is pleased to partner with CKNW in their Putting BC to Work programme. Over the coming weeks, we will be highlighting issues and opportunities in British Columbia's labour market both on air and here on our blog. On April 24th, we will be holding a wrap up event featuring Canadian Economist, Don Drummond. Tickets and details here.

By Jock Finlayson

The question of what people are paid in their jobs is obviously of great importance to individual employees. It’s also relevant in a broader, macro-economic sense. Because the bulk of total household income comes from employment, it follows that the spending capacity of most people is strongly influenced by how much they earn from working.

So, how much are those holding jobs in BC earning? According to the statistics, the average hourly wage rate in British Columbia is $24.45 (as of December 2013). This is up from $18.50 in 2004 – meaning the average nominal wage in the province has risen by approximately one-third in the past decade. That’s a decent overall wage gain.

How does BC compare with the rest of Canada on average wages? Here we limit attention to the ten provinces and ignore the three territories with their tiny populations and workforces.

Canada’s richest province, Alberta, leads the wage pack ($27.98 per hour in December 2013), followed by resource-rich Saskatchewan ($24.87), Ontario ($24.80), and then Newfoundland and Labrador ($24.74). Newfoundland’s strong showing may come as a surprise, but it must be remembered that it has a relatively low employment rate (the share of the population holding jobs). In 2013, Newfoundland’s employment rate stood at 54%, compared to 60% in BC. But most people in Newfoundland who do work are well-paid. British Columbia currently ranks fifth among the provinces in average wages -- although if we ignore Alberta, there are only small differences between the other four provinces included in the top five.

The picture is broadly similar when we look at “average weekly earnings” in the ten provinces: Alberta is easily number one ($1,063 in December 2013), followed by Newfoundland and Labrador ($935), Saskatchewan ($923), Ontario ($905), and then British Columbia ($884) in fifth spot. For many employees, average weekly pay reflects not just their wage, but also how many hours they work each week. Thus, provinces with a higher proportion of part-time workers, like BC, will tend to report lower average weekly earnings. More than one-fifth of employed British Columbians hold part-time jobs.

It is well known that wage levels and employment earnings vary significantly across different occupations and industries. The table below reports average weekly earnings for the main industrial sectors in BC, as of 2013. In descending order, average compensation levels are highest – more than $1,000 per week – in:

  • primary resource industries (forestry, mining, oil and gas);
  • utilities;
  • public administration;
  • professional, technical and scientific services;
  • construction; and,
  • transportation and warehousing.

The lowest average weekly pay is found in accommodation and food services, retail, and agriculture.

Average Weekly Earnings
by Broad Industry Grouping,
BC, 2013
Primary resource industries
(forestry, mining, oil and gas)
$1373
Utilities $1288
Public administration $1204
Professional, scientific and technical services $1198
Construction $1070
Transportation and warehousing $1045
Manufacturing $992
Education $966
Finance and related $953
Health care and social assistance $874
Retail trade $662
Agriculture $641
Accommodation and food services $426
Source: BC Stats, Earnings and Employment Trends, February 2014.


Much more detail on earnings by industry (and also by occupation) can be found on the provincial government's WorkBC website.