National Household Survey: Canadians are making a lot more money, especially in the north


OTTAWA — Many Canadians appear to have come through the recession making a lot more money — and are benefiting increasingly from higher education and booming regional economies.

The most recent snapshot of the country reflects the shifting fortunes of industries during and after the global downturn, highlighting the decline of the manufacturing sector and the growing dependence on natural resources.

According to Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey, a voluntary sampling of the population that replaced the mandatory long-form census, the median income of Canadians working full-time, year-round was $47,868 in 2010.

That’s up from $41,404 in the 2005 census — based on the average value of the dollar that year.


But when looking at all Canadians over the age of 15, who earned some form of income, the survey released Wednesday found the median income shrinks to $29,900.

Brian Murphy, special advisor with Statistics Canada’s income division, cautioned not to read too much into the large jump in income from 2005.

“It’s a brand new survey,” he said. “I’d be looking for these long-term trends in other data sources. It’s really important for income statistics to hold the methodology constant.”

He added: “The economy is moving, it’s shifting. So we have to hold that filter and lens constant. And methodology is part of that filter — and that changed. ”

Canadians in the top 10% of earners in 2010 netted a median income of $102,313, while the top 5% had an median income of $131,541 and the top 1% earned a median income of $264,943.

Nunavut capital Iqaluit, where the median income is $77,130.

To find the top Canadian full-time earners overall, look to the North.

All three territories had median annual incomes above $60,000. Nunavut was first with $77,130, followed by the Northwest Territories at $73,667 and the Yukon at $60,124.

The 2011 survey, based on data collected in 2010 by Statistics Canada, showed the biggest wage earners by province were in resource-heavy Alberta, where the median salary of full-time employees was $55,507.

Ontario was next with $50,116, while British Columbians earned $49,143, those in Saskatchewan brought in $46,304 and Newfoundland and Labrador workers earned $45,823.

Not surprisingly, the economies of both Saskatchewan and Newfoundland — as in Alberta — have been boosted by the resources sector.

Meanwhile, full-time incomes in other provinces were below $44,000.

Calgary was the city with the highest full-time incomes, at $57,967. In the Ottawa-Gatineau region, incomes averaged $57,551, followed by Edmonton at $56,388 and Regina at $52, 294. Toronto and Vancouver averaged $50,787 and $50,016, respectively.

The Statistics Canada data also showed biggest income earners tended to be highly educated, with 67.1% of the top one percent of full-time workers having received a university degree. By occupation, many of those in the top one-percent had jobs in management, health, business, finance and administration and law.

Importantly, the voluntary nature of the NHS leaves it subject to data gaps in certain geographic areas and populations. The survey was sent to roughly 30% of Canadian households and drew a response rate of 68.6%, versus the 2006 census sent to about 20% of households with a response rate of 93.5%.

It has been criticized for being a less-accurate snapshot on the country and, as a result, less useful by governments and businesses for tracking the resource needs of a changing population and employment base.

The voluntary nature of the NHS, which the Harper government said was introduced due to privacy concerns, leaves gaps in the data from groups that tend not to respond to voluntary surveys, including aboriginals, new immigrants and low-income families.

While experts believe the data should provide a fairly accurate broad picture of Canada, statisticians and economists warn the smaller the group surveyed, the less reliable the information. For the May 2011 survey, about 4.5 million households received a questionnaire.

Despite a strong recovery from the 2008-09 recession, Canada’s economy has been slowing, hampered by the absence of sustained growth elsewhere, especially in the United States, our biggest trading partner.

As a result, jobs have grown harder to find in Canada recently.


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