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The painful difference is that Canadian wages are bouncing back, up about 1.5 percent in the last year or so, while US wages are unchanged over the same time period.
So while Canadians are enjoying wages today (in Canadian dollars, not adjusted for inflation) greater than the peak in 2008, the typical US worker has wages about 1.5% lower than in 2008, and even heading slightly downward in Q2 2011 vs. the quarter before.
Why are wages rising faster in Canada? The reason for this is simple. Employment is up in Canada, and unemployment down, while in the US employment is virtually unchanged over the last year, and unemployment is staying high.
In the last 1 1/2 years, employment in the US is up less than 1 million in a workforce of 139 million. In contrast, employment in Canada is also up a little under 1 million in the same time, but that is for a workforce of only 17 million workers. The Canadian 5% employment growth in the last 1 1/2 years is a lot better than the US 0.7%.
The net result is that Canada currently has 7.4% unemployment, while the US is still at 9.2%.
What about the price of goods? Over the last 1.5 years, the exchange rates have the CA dollar rising about 10% vs. the US dollar. That means anything Canadians buy now from the US effectively has a 10% discount relative to the beginning of 2010.
Finally, the Canadian economy, as measured by real gross domestic product (GDP) is even growing faster: over the 12 months through about April 2011 (latest data available), Canadian real GDP is up 2.8%, while the US is up only about 2.3%.
Cheaper goods, lower unemployment, faster growing economy, and rising wages - all in all, I'd rather be in Canada :-)
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Director of Quantitative Analysis, PayScale, Inc.