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These are stories Report on Business is following Friday, Dec. 5, 2014.

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How Canada ranks
It may not feel like it to many people, but wages in Canada have been rising at almost the fastest pace in the developed world.

Only Australia marked a better showing from 2007 to 2013, the International Labour Organization said today.

The overall message from the global wage report released today by the ILO, an arm of the United Nations, is that pay hikes have slowed to almost nothing across developed economies, and have varied in the developing world.

"In many countries, inequality starts in the labour market, and particularly in the distribution of wages and employment," the ILO's Rosalia Vazquez-Alvarez, one of the authors, said in a statement.

In Canada, it's not that wages rose at a fast pace, but rather that did so at a faster pace than other G20 economies but for Australia.

Over the period measured, for example, average annual wage growth in Canada outpaced that of Germany, France and the United States.

The ILO's real wage index showed Australia rising to 108.9 in 2013, from the 2007 base of 100, compared to Canada's climb to 105.

"Australia and Canada show more positive growth in average wages partially attributed by some to their natural-resource based growth during a boom in commodities," the report says.

"Conversely, notable declines are observed in Italy and the United Kingdom, where the deep recession was accompanied by an unprecedented period of falling real wages," it adds.

As economist Benjamin Tal puts it, Canada was the "best student in summer school" over the period studied.

"We did not do great in absolute terms, but remember this was not a made-in-Canada recession," the CIBC World Markets economist said.

"In many ways, we were only second-hand smokers here," he added.

"Our labour market performance was much better relative to the U.S. and the zone (since monetary policy did work here and low interest rates lifted domestic activity as opposed to the U.S."

Looked at another way, "everything is relative."

It wasn't just the commodity boom.

Also at play was the "relative health of our banking sectors," noted Douglas Porter of BMO Nesbitt Burns, referring to the fact that no Canadian bank needed a saviour during the crisis.

"Australia and Canada were generally the most successful economies through this stretch, with some of the best real and nominal growth among major economies," Mr. Porter said.

"That likewise translated into wage and income gains (even if they were modest by long-run standards in recent years)."

One way of looking at this in today's climate, of course, is that the findings are so 2013.

Particularly where Canada and other oil producers are concerned, the plunge in oil prices is going to take its toll going forward.

The commodity boom certainly drove the past few years, but those days are over.

And according to Statistics Canada today, average hourly earnings among Canadian workers rose in November at their slowest pace in months.

Jobless rate ticks up
The United States is scoring hefty jobs gains, while Canada's unemployment rate ticks back up.

According to Statistics Canada today, the economy lost 10,700 jobs in November, pushing unemployment to 6.6 per cent from October's 6.5 per cent.

Today's showing, The Globe and Mail's Tavia Grant reports, follows two months of substantial gains in the labour market.

Over the course of the past year, employment in Canada has jumped by 146,000, or 0.8 per cent, with part-time jobs rising at a far faster pace than full-time positions, 1.9 per cent to 0.6 per cent.

Part-time jobs, however, declined in November.

The number of unemployed Canadians rose in the latest survey to almost 1.3 million.

In the United States, today's report was far better than expected, with the U.S. economy churning out 321,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 per cent.

Surplus narrows
Canada's trade surplus has dwindled to almost nothing.

The surplus narrowed in October to $99-million from September's $307-million, Statistics Canada said today, with marked variations in volumes and prices.

As The Globe and Mail's David Parkinson report, Canadian exports inched up by 0.1 per cent in October. But actual volumes slipped by 1.5 per cent, while prices rose 1.6 per cent.

On the other side of the ledger, imports climbed by 0.5 per cent, with volumes down 0.7 per cent and prices up 0.7 per cent.

"The volume data point to a deterioration in Canada's real trade balance, suggesting that trade won't be as big a contributor in Q4 as it was in Q3," said Nick Exarhos of CIBC World Markets.

Scotiabank profit slides
Bank of Nova Scotia posted a 14-per-cent drop in its fourth-quarter profit, falling short of what analysts had projected.

Scotiabank, the latest of the big Canadian banks to report results, reported its quarterly profit slid to $1.4-billion, or $1.32 a share, adjusted.

But, The Globe and Mail's Tim Kiladze reports, the bank says analysts did not take into account all of the one-time hits that factored into the results.

Money trail
The Vatican isn't "broke."

In fact, the Holy See's economic chief says, it's in better shape than believed, having found "some hundreds millions of euros" stashed away in certain accounts.

"Apart from the pension fund, which needs to be strengthened for the demands on it in 15 or 20 years, the Holy See is paying its way, while possessing substantial assets and investments," Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, writes in Britain's Catholic Herald.

"In fact, we have discovered that the situation is much healthier than it seemed, because some hundreds of millions of euros were tucked away in particular sectional accounts and did not appear on the balance sheet," he adds.

"It is another question, impossible to answer, whether the Vatican should have much larger reserves."

The Vatican has been plagued by scandal when it comes to finances, and has moved aggressively to clean up its act.

With this latest article – titled "The days of ripping off the Vatican are over" – it is becoming even more transparent.

The article cites the scandals at Vatican bank in the early 1980s, and then the more demands that it meet global money-laundering laws.

It also notes that those in charge of the bank "did not move swiftly enough," prompting the Bank of Italy to freeze millions of its funds and other banks to shun its business.

"It was a grave situation where the worst was narrowly averted," the cardinal says.

The Vatican then moved to clean things up, striking a Financial Information Authority to deal with money laundering, among other things.

"In the pre-conclave meetings before the election of Pope Francis there was an almost unanimous consensus among the cardinals that the curial and banking worlds in the Vatican needed to be reformed and normalized," he adds.

"When Pope Francis realized that the Vatican financial systems had evolved in such a way that was impossible for anyone to know accurately what was going on over all, he appointed an international body of lay experts to examine the situation and propose a reform program."

That was done, leading to new principles for the Holy See – adoption of modern financial standards, transparency and a separation of powers – and then the Secretariat was formed.

Next up under the progressive Pope Francis are the appointment of an auditor-general, and investments controlled by the Vatican Asset Management, for whom "prudence will be the first priority, rather than risky high returns, in order to avoid excessive losses in times of turbulence."

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