It Pays To Be A Farmer

Ten Bucks a Week

The average pay packet in this province is once again rising.

The monthly tracking of wages – a calculation that looks at regular working hours plus overtime – has Saskatchewan employees seeing a bit more green. The increase in September was almost $10 a week, bringing the weekly average to $984. Only Alberta and Newfoundland have higher numbers.

This particular report has some significance because it represents a reversal of the softening we had been seeing in previous monthly reports. Whether this marks the beginning of a new trend is not yet clear but it is a reversal, reclaiming all the losses we had seen earlier in the year and putting workers about $6 a week ahead of where they were last year. In other words, pretty much static.

Given the challenges in commodity markets – notably the oil and gas sector – this is an interesting development, suggesting other sectors are filling the gap.

And it supports other indicators showing consumer confidence and purchasing power have remained relatively static as well – neither going up nor down as we head into the final stretch of the calendar year.


Smiling Down on The Farm

We now have the official numbers for the financial performance of Saskatchewan’s farming sector last year. 2014 turned out to be a good year, exceeding the previous year which was solid as well.

A lot of factors go into this calculation. There’s volume – the size of the crop – and there’s price for commodities plus inventory – grain still in the bin.

According to StatsCan, 2014 saw top line revenue for farmers exceed the previous year. Expenses rose too…but not as quickly, giving a cash tally of nearly $5 billion last year, about three-quarters of a billion more than 2013. This is the amount of money available for farmers to spend. It also shows that the big crop of 2013 found its way to markets last year and strengthened farm revenues.

After depreciation net realized income – an accounting term that does not affect cash – 2014 was better than 2013.

Along with the release of the 2014 numbers, StatsCan also had top line revenue for the first three-quarters of this year and, once again, it is another improvement.


More with Fewer

The growing popularity of town houses and apartment style condos might be more than simple pricing.

As we’ve seen the price of the average home in Saskatchewan go up in the past decade, we’ve also seen a significant increase in the number of smaller housing units. We probably attribute that to the fact that smaller and more density is usually cheaper.

However, it turns out that social norms may be at play here too. A new report from StatsCan looks at size of households in the country and finds they are getting smaller. In part that is a result of lower fertility rates when compared to the beginning of the baby boom in the post-war era but it also affected by things like divorce.

The number of people living in the average household today is 2.5. It was 4.5 sixty years ago and more than six over a hundred years ago.

The upshot of this is interesting for the housing industry and the way we track it, as we now have more housing units but each has fewer occupants.

Double Effect

Sales at retail outlets in this province have been flattening out for a while. That trend continued in September, according to new figures released by StatsCanada.

Overall sales compared to August were down three-quarters of a percentage point. Basically, flat.

That translates into an annual decline of just under four percent. The reason for the plateau, and even slight softening, is two-fold.

First is gasoline. This is a big ticket item and with prices now under a dollar a litre the total spend on automotive fuel is lower. To put it another way, we’re not buying less gas….it’s just cheaper. There was a corresponding increase in volumes for car dealers but it was not enough to offset the decline in gasoline revenues.

The second factor is population growth. It’s slowing. And with it is a flattening out in retail sales activity. More people generally means more consumers spending so, as the population growth flattens retail volumes flatten out too.

Even so, monthly sales at local stores is still running at more than $1.5 billion a month or $1360 per person.

Paul Martin

Paul Martin You’ve heard him on the radio, seen him on TV and read him in newspapers and magazines. Paul is a popular keynote speaker on topics ranging from the economy to tapping community potential. His unique blend of communication and business knowledge has made him a highly sought-after consultant. As the Chair of Martin Charlton Communications, Paul is MCC’s ‘go to’ guy for all things business in Saskatchewan. He is the chair of four Saskatchewan branches of TEC (The Executive Committee) – a global organization dedicated to improving the performance and enhancing the lives of CEOs – which has over 50 CEOs and senior executives among its Saskatchewan members. The long and short: Paul knows the province’s corporate community and business economy like few others. He is a potent conduit for anyone looking to do business in Saskatchewan, Canada’s fastest growing economy. His strategic advice is unrivalled.

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