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Journeymen who newly certified in 2020 hit hard by pandemic

March 28, 2023 | By Anthony Capkun

March 24, 2023 – The onset of Covid in 2020 had a negative impact on the economy as a whole, but particularly on newly certified journeymen, as evidenced by the take-up rates of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit among skilled tradespeople (38.4%) and the general working population (35.2%).

Among the restrictions that provinces and territories implemented to contain the spread of Covid was the closure of many worksites. Actual construction cannot be done virtually, which is why newly certified journeys were more negatively affected than others in the labour force.

Journeymen who newly certified in 2020 earned a median employment income of $50,080 that year, which marked a 5.2% drop compared with what those who certified in 2019 earned.

This represents one of the lowest median employment incomes of newly certified journeymen since the series started in 2008.


Combined with declines in workable hours and business shutdowns, journeymen who certified in 2018 had a median employment income of $57,450 in 2020. This marked an 8.2% (-$5,160) decline from the previous year, and the lowest median employment earnings since the beginning of the series.

Although the median employment income of journeymen (-8.2%) fell in 2020, when the median total income of journeymen was evaluated—including non-employment income from government transfers like CERB—the income of journeymen had a relatively slight decline compared with the previous year (-2.9%).

Income declines across Canada

In 2020, due to unprecedented challenges from the pandemic, the median employment income of newly certified journeymen fell across Canada compared with those who certified the previous year. (The median employment income of journeys largely depends on the state of the local labour market and the economy in general.)

The median employment income of newly certified journeymen continued to be highest in the territories (-13.5% to $66,540) and Alberta (-7.0% to $57,230). While both jurisdictions experienced significant drops, it was Newfoundland & Labrador (-16.3%) that recorded the largest decline from 2019.

Income falls in most trades

Only 3 of the 31 trades that Statistic Canada tracked saw growth in the median earnings of newly certified journeymen from 2019 to 2020: agricultural equipment technicians (+9.8%), industrial instrumentation and control technicians (+4.4%) and powerline technicians (+1.1%).

The remaining trades experienced decreases from 0.4% to 31.2%. Not surprisingly, trades that rely heavily on interactions with the public—such as hairstylists (-31.2%), cooks (-21.5%) and estheticians (-21.3%)—decreased the most.

Considering these three trades have some of the highest concentrations of female journeymen and were most at risk of job disruption due to Covid restrictions, their decreases contributed to a larger decline in female journeyman income (-13.1%) than in male journeyman income (5.7%).

Journeyman mobility rates also decline

Previous research has found that interprovincial mobility can affect a journeyman’s income, notes Statistics Canada. Economic gains are among the main reasons for migration, and those who are mobile and migrate to other provinces tend to have higher incomes compared with those who do not.

In 2020, one year after certification, 5.2% of journeymen either lived or worked in a province or territory other than their place of certification. This marked the lowest national mobility rate of journeymen since the data series started in 2008, and a continued downward trend for a third year.

Sticking with 2020, against the backdrop of Covid restrictions, weak oil prices, and declines in construction activity and support activities for oil and gas extraction (-41.3%), Alberta’s gross domestic product dropped 8.2%—the largest decline among the provinces and territories.

Amidst these economic uncertainties, Alberta had difficulties retaining and attracting migrant journeymen. In 2020, under one-fifth (18.2%) of mobile journeymen (i.e. those who lived or worked in a province or territory other than their place of certification) who certified in 2019 moved to Alberta. This marked a 3.7 percentage point decline from the previous year, and the sixth consecutive year of in-migration declines.

In 2014, Alberta’s resource boom made it an attractive destination, and in-migration of newly certified journeymen to Alberta peaked, with nearly one-half (48.9%) of mobile journeymen moving there. In 2020, just over one-third (33.7%) of mobile journeymen had left the province.

British Columbia slowly replaced Alberta as the most common destination for newly certified migrant journeymen. In 2020, one year after certification, British Columbia received just under one-quarter (24.4%, +1.5% from 2019) of newly certified in-migrants, most of whom migrated from Alberta, followed by Ontario (22.6%), which also surpassed Alberta.

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