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After-tax income is barely budging and not keeping up with the cost of living

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The cost of living — putting a roof over our heads in particular — keeps going up. But wages aren’t keeping up.

According to new data from Statistics Canada, median after-tax income for households and individuals was $61,400 in 2018 and virtually unchanged from 2017.

That doesn’t keep up with rapidly rising costs for housing, transportation, and food.

It also doesn’t keep up with corporate profit, which according to another new report from Statistics Canada, rose around 9 per cent during the same period.

Median wage growth (Statistics Canada)
Corporate operating profits (Statistics Canada)

The effects of stagnant wage growth are also being seen through a spike in insolvencies.

Ontario was an outlier in wages, with a 3.3 per cent increase to $66,200 —  the only province to see gains. 

Nova Scotia residents had the lowest median income, taking home $52,200. Alberta had the highest at $72,700.

Data from 2019 isn’t available yet, but average wage growth based on monthly jobs reports was around 2.7 per cent, so the picture could be different in the next version of the report.

Not all bad news

Despite stagnant wages, the overall poverty rate declined. Statistics Canada uses the market basket measure (MBM).

“According to the MBM, a family lives in poverty if it does not have enough income to purchase a specific basket of goods and services in its community,” read the report.

“About 3.2 million Canadians, or 8.7% of the population, lived below Canada's Official Poverty Line in 2018, down from 9.5% in 2017.”

But Statistics Canada cautions, children living in single-parent households are particularly vulnerable.

“In 2018, the child poverty rate was 5.8% for those living in couple families, compared with 26.2% for those in female lone-parent families,” read the report.

The number of low-income earners was also flat.

“Individuals live in low income if their household after-tax income falls below half of the median after-tax income, adjusting for household size,” read the report.

Jessy Bains is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessysbains.

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