Statistics Canada recently released detailed income statistics from the 2016 Census. What are they telling us?
Alberta stands out with the highest median incomes among the provinces. This is the case across all family types and before and after income tax is subtracted. The median household income in Alberta in 2015 was $93,800. The number for Canada as a whole was $70,300 -- $23,500 less.
Adjusted for inflation, income was up in every province in 2015 compared to 2005. The median household income in Alberta grew by 24 per cent over this period. Only Saskatchewan (37 per cent) and Newfoundland (29 per cent) outpaced Alberta’s growth. The growth rate for the country was 11per cent.
Calgary had a slightly higher median income than Edmonton ($99,600 vs. $94,500) but the Census Agglomeration of Wood Buffalo (which includes Fort McMurray) had by far the highest at a whopping $193,500. The median income of unattached individuals (a.k.a. people who live alone) was $54,400 in Alberta compared to $134,700 in Fort McMurray (it was $38,000 for Canada as a whole). This reflects the large number of unattached Canadians who move to Fort McMurray to take high-paying jobs in the oil patch.
We don’t have income data for 2016, but we do know that the number of earners in Fort McMurray in the top 1 per cent of Canadian earners fell by 43 per cent between 2014 and 2015 from 5,460 to 3,130. The effects of provincial recession of 2015-16 would also have been felt at lower income levels.
These income statistics show once again that Alberta is an economic force and one that has benefited the rest of the country as hundreds of thousands of Canadians have moved here over the years to find good jobs and enjoy higher incomes. Recession or not, Alberta is a place of opportunity.
It's also important to note that median incomes are up since 2005 -- even after taking into account inflation and income taxes. We tend to focus on the negative and it might seem like income and the standard of living it makes possible have been spiralling downward, but the opposite is the reality. This is something to celebrate.
With that said, not everyone in Alberta is raking it in. Many are still reeling from the recession and almost 1 in 10 Albertans lives in a low-income household. We still have a lot of work to do to make sure everyone in Alberta is able to fully participate in the economic opportunities found here. And we can’t forget that our prosperity going forward is far from a given. Hard work, creative thinking and good public policy will be needed to keep Alberta’s economy strong in the decades ahead.
This post is written by guest writer Rob Roach, ATB Financial's Director of Insight.