Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity in Canada: Evidence from Micro- Level Data

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We assess the importance of downward nominal wage rigidity (DNWR) in Canada using both firm- and worker-level microdata. In particular, we analyze employer-level administrative data from the Major Wage Settlements (MWS) and household-based survey data from the Survey of Labour Income Dynamics (SLID). MWS data cover large unionized firms in Canada, while SLID is a rich rotating panel representative of the employed population in Canada. Combining both sources of information allows for a more extensive analysis of DNWR in the Canadian labour market. The results suggest that, on average, the effects of DNWR added about 0.2 to 0.4 percentage points to wage growth between 1994 and 2011; as well, the estimated effects increased in the years following the Great Recession in 2008–09. That includes a higher proportion of workers affected by DNWR (which rose from 16 to 32 per cent) and a larger impact on average wage growth. DNWR’s effects on average wage growth were also much stronger during periods of lower CPI inflation in Canada and are positively related to provincial unemployment rates. Finally, we provide an extensive analysis of the heterogeneity in the effects of DNWR. For example, its impact is more pronounced among smaller firms, lower occupational levels, immigrants and older workers. Overall, population ageing and an increasing proportion of immigrants may continue to increase the effects of DNWR in Canada, while the continuing shift toward service industries, declining unionization rates and the increasing educational attainment of the Canadian population may reduce them.