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B.C. has lowest median employment earnings in the region

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B.C. has lowest median employment earnings in the region

A recent Fraser Institute study compared British Columbia to Alberta and six nearby U.S. states on key measures of economic prosperity. The results are sobering. The study used 2019 as the year of analysis as this was the last available year of pre-pandemic data.

On the broadest measure of income, GDP per capita, B.C. had the third-lowest result of the eight jurisdictions analyzed—only slightly ahead of Montana and Idaho, but far behind Alberta and the other four U.S. states analyzed.

On the second indicator examined, median employment income, B.C.’s performance is even worse. As the infographic below shows, B.C. had the lowest median employment income in the region in 2019. The next lowest jurisdiction, Idaho, has median employment income that’s 14.1 per cent higher than B.C.’s level.

BC employment income infographic

B.C.’s weak performance on this indicator sheds light on both living standards and the overall strength of the labour market.

In addition to comparing median employment income levels, our study also compares growth rates for this indicator from 2010-2019. As the chart below shows, B.C.’s growth rate during the 2010s was weak by regional standards. Only Alberta, which was rocked by a steep recession in the middle of the decade followed by a weak recovery, had lower median employment growth than B.C. over the period of analysis. All six U.S. states experienced faster median employment growth than B.C.

Growth in Real Median Employment Income

These data mean that while B.C. already faces a prosperity gap compared to nearby U.S. states on this important indicator of well-being and labour market performance, the gap grew larger over the course of the 2010s.

B.C. is a wonderful place to live and work. Its residents have access to high living standards and economic opportunity. However, compared to regional peers, B.C. is a laggard on many economic indicators including median employment income. Acknowledging the reality of B.C.’s underperformance compared to regional peers can hopefully prevent complacency about the provincial economy and help prompt discussion about pro-growth policy reform that can ensure that the next generation of British Columbians have the opportunity to live in one of the freest and most prosperous places on Earth.

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