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Evan Brewer welds together some structural supports while racks of piping are stacked in the backgroun at the Central Heating Plant in Fredericton, NB. Statscan says weekly wages hit a 10-month high in December.

James West/The Globe and Mail

Weekly earnings climbed to a 10-month high in December, with workers in Alberta seeing more than twice the gains as those in Ontario.

Average weekly earnings rose 2.9 per cent from a year ago to $933 in December, marking four straight months of increases, according to Statistics Canada's survey of employment, payrolls and hours. Energy-rich Alberta led gains, where earnings were 4.6 per cent higher from a year earlier, while workers in Ontario saw the smallest growth at 2 per cent.

The earnings increase stemmed from wage growth, a shifting composition in the labour market and a bump in hours worked, the agency said. Payroll employees worked an average of 33.1 hours a week in December compared with 33 hours a year earlier and 32.9 hours in November.

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There was also variation among sectors. The largest earnings increase was in wholesale trade, where earnings jumped 7.4 per cent. Construction followed, where earnings climbed 6.3 per cent while those in professional, scientific and technical services advanced 4.8 per cent.

Educational services, which have drifted lower since the middle of last year, saw an outright drop in year-over-year earnings, of 3.8 per cent in December. "Declines were most notable in elementary and secondary schools, and community colleges and CEGEPs," Statscan said.

Employment levels fell for the second straight month. Total non-farm payroll employment fell by 16,400 in December, with declines in education along with information and cultural industries.

Statscan's separate labour force survey showed a drop of 44,000 in the month.

Compared with year-earlier levels, Alberta tallied the largest employment gains in Canada while New Brunswick saw the largest percentage decline.

Diverging labour markets are altering population patterns, with booming economies in the Prairies luring more workers. Calgary recorded the strongest population growth between July, 2012 and July of last year, followed by Saskatoon, Edmonton and Regina, a separately released Statscan report showed this week.

By contrast, Saint John, New Brunswick was the only city in Canada to see its population shrink in that time. All four Atlantic provinces saw populations decreases.

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