February 4, 2014

Canada’s construction labour costs are advancing, but with decorum (Part 2)

Continued from Economy at a Glance Part 1.

Table 3 shows the actual hourly rates, including supplements, currently in place for nine key trades in representative cities across Canada. (On account of space limitations, I’ve had to leave out some other important trades such as painters, roofers and heavy equipment operators.)

Every person trying to manage a household and forced to deal with needed repairs knows that plumbers and electricians are two of the highest-paid trades.

Nor is it a shock to learn that Ontario (as represented by Toronto) and Alberta (Calgary) dominate for high labour costs, often followed in short order by Saskatchewan (Regina).

For carpenters, cement finishers, electricians and structural steel erectors, the highest wage rates are in Calgary; for crane operators and reinforcing steel erectors, it’s Regina; and for labourers and brick layers, Toronto. For plumbers, Calgary and Toronto are neck-and-neck at the top.

Where do these figures stand relative to other pay-scale indicators? Minimum wage rates in Canada are set by the provinces, but they’re generally just above or below $10 per hour. (They’re higher in the northern territories because the cost of consumer goods is so much more.)

South of the border, Congress is debating increasing the federal minimum wage rate from $7.25 per hour to $9.00-$10.00. States generally have rates that are consistent with the federal level, although there are instances where the figure is much lower (Georgia and Wyoming at $5.15 per hour).

There are also states in which there is no minimum wage (Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana).

Providing an example from the other end of the spectrum, the Carrick family recently took its van to an auto repair shop in search of a remedy for some truly scary scraping sounds.

The charge for labour was nearly $100 per hour. I nearly choked when I saw the bill.

By comparison, the cost of labour in construction is at least something one can talk about in polite society.

For more articles by Alex Carrick on the Canadian and U.S. economies, please see his market insights. Mr. Carrick also has an economics blog.

Table 3: Union wage rates, including supplements, for some major
construction trades – November 2013 ($ per hour)

n/a means not available

Data source: Statistics Canada/Table: Reed Construction Data – CanaData.

Print | Comment