Wage boost seen in Canada energy sector

Jobs in Canada's resource sector ranging from pipe fitters to construction engineers will see the biggest salary gains this year, particularly in the oil and gas rich provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, according to a Conference Board of Canada survey.

The oil and gas sector is expected to have the highest average salary increase at 4.5 per cent, up from 4.2 per cent projected last summer, the board said in its outlook report released on Tuesday.

Salaries in oil and gas this year are rising faster than projected and labor markets in Western Canada are tightening due in part to a shortage of skilled labour in the resources sector, resulting in wage inflation, said Ian Cullwick, the Conference Board's vice-president of leadership and human resources research.

"It's basic labor economics: demand and supply. There is a demand for the specialized skill sets and knowledge workers. The demand is not going away," he said.

While the survey findings point to strength in the sector, it remains unclear whether the rising costs will impact profit growth. Cullwick said that factor was not part of the analysis, but there were indications companies have the resources.

"I suspect most of them are confident with their market growth and revenue projections and demand for the products that they're selling," he said.

On the flip side, companies in the food, beverage, and tobacco industries reported revising salary increases down in recent months, the board said. As a result, the expected increase across these industries has fallen to 2.3 per cent from 2.9 per cent previously. Retail trade was also seen as a weak spot.

On a provincial basis, the strongest wage growth is seen in Alberta and Saskatchewan at 3.9 per cent and 4.0 per cent, respectively. The weakest is forecasted in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, all below the national average of 3 per cent.

The Conference Board said it conducted its survey in December and 237 organizations responded, representing a response rate of roughly 59  per cent.

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