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Saskatchewan's jobs engine hits high gear

Workers on an oil rig in southern Saskatchewan last summer. In the past two years, both payroll employment and average weekly earnings in the province have seen higher-than-average growth.

Gord Pitts/Gordon Pitts/The Globe and Mail

Alberta's labour market may garner most of the country's attention – but Saskatchewan's employment performance in recent years is plain astonishing.

The Prairie province currently ties with Alberta for the lowest jobless rate in the country, at 5 per cent. Payroll employment soared 2.8 per cent between January of this year and the same month a year earlier, the second-fastest provincial growth rate after Alberta and nearly double the national rate.

To back up a bit, in the 2008-09 recession – at a time when employment tumbled 2.8 per cent nationally – payrolls in Saskatchewan actually rose, climbing 0.4 per cent.

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In the past two years, both payroll employment and average weekly earnings have seen higher-than-average growth. Average job growth was 2.7 per cent in 2010 and 2011, according to Statistics Canada's payrolls report out Friday.

In what sectors is the recent growth? Everywhere. "Payroll job gains in Saskatchewan were widespread across goods and services industries," the report said, led by increases in professional, scientific and technical services; manufacturing; transportation and warehousing; and construction.

Wage growth is outstripping the rest of the country too. The province's average weekly earnings grew 2.7 per cent in January from a year ago to $907.44 -- the third-highest level of earnings of all provinces.

"Earnings in Saskatchewan have been higher than the national average since August 2011," the agency said, which is the first period where earnings consistently above the national average since 2001.

The province has a greater proportion of workers in the mining and energy sector, which includes potash, along with education, health care and public administration – generally better-paying areas, which explain why wages are higher.

Even with the growth, Saskatchewan's work force is a small part of the national total. As of January, its 458,800 payroll employees accounted for 3 per cent of the national total.

Taken together, it's little wonder the province is seeing a surge in labour migration in recent years.

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About the Author

Tavia Grant has worked at The Globe and Mail since early 2005, covering topics from employment and currency markets to trade, microfinance and Latin American economies. She previously worked for Bloomberg News in Toronto and Zurich, writing on mining, stocks, currencies and secret Swiss bank accounts. More

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