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B.C. last in median income growth

By Stefania Seccia

B.C. fell behind every other province as median employment income dropped by 2.4% between 2006 and 2012.

B.C. fell behind every other province as median employment income dropped by 2.4% between 2006 and 2012. (Fotolia)

Those in the median income bracket in B.C. feeling the financial squeeze are not imagining things - it has only gotten worse for B.C.’s middle-of-the-road income earners.

B.C.’s median income in 2006 sat at $29,917 and dropped by 2.4% to $29,200 by 2012, according to Statistics Canada data, which put the province lagging behind the rest. Ontario ranked second last with a 1.7% drop.

Overall, Canada’s median income rose by 3.5%, from $30,587 to $31,660, between 2006 and 2012.

The provinces that saw the most growth in the same time period were Newfoundland and Labrador, at 37%, and Saskatchewan, at 25%, according to the data.

Andrew Jackson, senior policy advisor with Broadbent Institute who analyzed the data, said he was surprised by B.C.’s poor performance.

“So it’s basically telling you how a person in the exact middle is doing, and it could be a lot of the growth in incomes in B.C., and Vancouver in particular, has been at the higher end of the earning spectrum – and if that’s the case it would drive up the average but not the median,” he said.

Jackson said the only two provinces that saw a drop over those six years struggled with their dwindling manufacturing sectors, while B.C. also saw a crisis in its forestry industry.

“I guess there’s no doubt the oil and gas producing provinces have done very well,” he said. “But given the recent backdrop of a significant decline in oil prices right now, there’s a warning here in not putting all of your eggs in one basket.”

Giovanni Gallipoli, University of B.C. economist, said it’s a conflation of many factors including a large over-arching shift of the baby boomers retiring and moving into part-time, low-paying positions.

Coupled with less high-paying jobs in the resource and manufacturing sectors, which have been suffering for the past 10 years, and low productivity growth – it’s been spelling the perfect storm for the median income workers in B.C., according to Gallipoli.

“There’s also been a generational shift as new jobs are often not unionized,” he said. “It’s a double whammy.

“B.C. has a dismal record when it comes to productivity growth.”

Another aspect is the influx of immigrants in the region, who often start out in low-paying jobs when first entering the job market, Gallipoli said.

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