February Labour Report: Wages, women & engineers

Very little changed for the Canadian labour market last month. According to Statistics Canada’s (StatsCan) latest release for February 2023, unemployment once again held steady at 5% and a modest bump of 22,000 jobs were added to the economy.

Meanwhile, average hourly wages rose 5.4% year-over-year, bringing the average hourly wage in Canada to $33.16/h. This bump in wages is significantly closer to the inflation rate of 5.9% compared to January which saw wages grow by 4.5% compared to 6.3% inflation from the month prior.

Every month StatsCan selects different areas of interest to the public to spotlight employment trends within that particular area. This month, in honour of International Women’s Day and National Engineering Month, StatsCan put women and the professional, scientific and technical services industry in the spotlight. With that in mind, let’s dive a bit deeper into the status of working women and engineering in Canada.

Working Women in Canada

Prior to the onset of the pandemic women in Canada held an employment rate of 59%, this number quickly crashed to a low of 49% as women were disproportionately affected by employment losses. As of this February, women have nearly recovered their stride in the employment rate at 58.9%, albeit not necessarily in the same industries as before.

According to research from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), there has been a major shakeup in Canada’s post-pandemic labour market when it comes to low-contact vs. high-contact jobs. Particularly for women, as many have changed the nature of the work they do, moving into higher-paid roles that require less customer service skills.

“Women who have made this change have been rewarded with higher earnings,” RBC shares. Yet still, men continue to reap much higher wage gains. While women accounted for 60% of jobs created in finance, insurance and real estate over the last several years, they’ve realized less than half (46%) of the wage increases attribute to movement in that sector.

There is still a long way to go when it comes to wage parity in Canada. In February 2023, women earned $30.67/h on average compared with $35.63/h for men, or to put it simply – 86 cents for every dollar. While this number may artificially seem like progress since many of us hold on to the “70 cents/dollar” notion, this is in fact lower than the 88 cents/dollar women were making prior to the pandemic in 2019.

It's important for all of us to remember that while women have made significant progress on the road to workforce equity, there is still a great deal of work ahead of us. Check out our blog from last week for more insight into women’s workforce progress and remaining barriers.

The top industry for growth in Canada…

…Is the professional, scientific and technical services industry. According to StatsCan, this industry comprises a diverse range of subsectors employing highly skilled workers, including engineers. Year-over-year employment in this industry is up 4.7% in February – over double the growth across all industries at 2.1%.

March is engineering month, and as the number one recruitment firm for engineering talent in Canada (as reported in Staffing Industry Analyst’s (SIA) Largest Staffing Firms in Canada and Market Outlook: 2022 Update) we know engineering is an incredibly diverse and technical industry. Recently we shared insight into the future of engineering, and be sure to visit our blog again next week as we share salary details on some of the most in-demand jobs in engineering.

Speaking of wages, the hourly wages of employees within the professional, scientific and technical services industry has also enjoyed the fastest growth rate across all industries. Hourly wages of employees in this industry were up 9.6% year-over-year to an average of $43.69/h. This is over $10/h higher than the national average.

However, when it comes to employing women in engineering there is once again a great deal of work ahead of us. When Engineers Canada started their 30 by 30 program in 2014 only 17% of newly acquired engineering licenses were awarded to women. Thanks to a push on engaging women in STEM careers there has been an uplift in the last decade of women pursuing careers in engineering. However, retention of women in engineering continues to be a significant challenge within the industry with women making up less than 14% of engineers in Canada overall.

Looking forward

Now that the labour market is levelling off we expect to continue to see small increases and decreases to the labour market as opposed to the devastating drops at the onset of the pandemic and massive spikes we saw over the last year coming out the other end.

Business analysts, employers and government bureaucrats predicted this labour market squeeze as the Canadian population aged, and it is unlikely there will be any major reprieve in the near future. For both candidates and employers, it can be challenging to navigate this new world of work. That’s why partnering with a total talent management firm such as Agilus is an important step in the employment process. At Agilus we leverage our deep understanding of the Canadian market combined with the complex and varied experiences of our 275+ staff to take the lead, have real human connections and deliver better outcomes for both our clients and workforce. Contact us today to learn how we can transform your world of work.

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