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Number of skilled trades jobs in Canada continues to grow

More than one million people worked in skilled trades in 2007, where employment growth has been a steady 2.2 per cent a year on average since the recession of the early 1990s, reports Statistics Canada.

The skilled trades group includes trades such as plumbers, masons, mechanics and crane operators, where a licence or certificate may be a condition of employment.

In 1987, Alberta accounted for nine per cent of all trades employment.

By 2007, this proportion had increased to 15 per cent. During the same period, the proportion for British Columbia rose from 11 per cent to 15 per cent.

In contrast, Ontario accounted for 36 per cent of trades employment in 2007, down from 41 per cent in 1987, primarily because of slower employment growth.

Average hourly earnings in 2007 were higher in the trades ($22.36) than in other occupations ($21.02) combined, reflecting in part the predominance of full-time jobs and the relatively high rate of unionization in the skilled trades.

The highest earners were electricians, crane operators and plumbers, reports Statistics Canada.

Between 1997 and 2007, employees in the trades saw a 3.5 per cent increase in their average constant-dollar hourly earnings, half the 7.4 per cent increase for those outside the trades.

Self-employment is a growing phenomenon among tradespeople. In 1987, nine per cent of those employed in the trades were self-employed.

By 2007, this had increased to 15 per cent. Some trades experienced even higher growth rates, although their self-employment rates had not caught up to the non-trades.

The aging of the population has led to general concerns about the replacement of retiring workers.

The ratio of entrants (age 25 to 34) to near-retirees (50 or older) addresses the issue of demographic balance and shows that the skilled trades had a higher ratio in 2007 than those in other occupations combined (1.0 versus 0.7).

This ratio varied among the trades though, with some having a higher ratio of younger workers (plumbers and masons at about 1.5).

Overall, 17 per cent of workers in the trades were immigrants, lower than the 21 per cent in the non-trades occupations combined.

None of the trades had a higher proportion of immigrants than the non-trades. In 2007, 10 per cent of plumbers were immigrants, the lowest proportion. (Source: JOC News Service)

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