A slim majority of working New Brunswickers, 57 per cent, got a raise in 2009 according to a recent survey by Halifax-based Corporate Research Associates.

New Brunswick was slightly above the regional average of 55 per cent, which was dragged down by P.E.I. and Nova Scotia with 51 per cent and 50 per cent respectively, while Newfoundland and Labrador led the region with 64 per cent.

The average wage increase in New Brunswick was 1.5 per cent, the survey found, which is slightly below the regional average of 1.8 per cent. Again Newfoundland and Labrador drove up the average with a 3.0 per cent raise while P.E.I. and Nova Scotia were closer to New Brusnwick’s rate with 1.6 per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively.

The 872 person survey is considered accurate within 3.3 percentage points 95 times out of 100.

Don Mills, president and chief executive of the research firm behind the survey, says the company has never done this survey before but thought it would be interesting after the economic rollercoaster of 2009.

“There are a lot of people who received no pay increases,” he says. “Four in 10 that’s a significant group.

“I would expect that more than 80 per cent of the population would get a raise typically in a regular year,” he says.

But because there is no data from previous years to compare to, Bobby O’Keefe, a research manager at the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, says it’s hard say how significant the numbers are.

He says the survey could be a somewhat interesting economic indicator once there is historical data to compare to, but it ignores part of the bigger picture of economic performance.

“This is looking at employed workers, so if your getting an average increase in pay for people who are employed but you’re seeing more people that are unemployed, that’s something else you have to add to the picture when looking at what it means for the economy,” he says.

But with inflation at 0.6 per cent in 2009, O’Keefe says, some New Brunswickers getting an average 1.5 per cent raise could be a good thing.

“With Atlantic Canada’s wage increase being above that consumer price index level, it should be some small assistance to tax revenues,” he says. “If they’ve seen a bump in their wages it could be an indication that their confidence is on their way up.”

But Mills says consumer spending will likely continue to drag.

“Obviously there’s less additional money than there would normally be to spend,” he says. “People increase their spending every year because they usually have more money to spend, so it’s obviously going to have a decrease on consumer expenditures.”

Anne Hebert, executive director of the Conseil Économique du Nouveau-Brunswick, agrees the numbers don’t say much without something to compare them to.

The Conference Board of Canada recently released its pay outlook for 2010, which showed the national average raise was 2.4 per cent in 2009, down from 4.2 per cent in 2008. But only 10 Atlantic Canadian companies were included in the more than 400 company survey.

“I would imagine that we were lower than the Canadian average (in 2008), because of the industries and cost of living here,” Hebert says.

The Conference Board of Canada predicts the average raise in 2010 will be 2.7 per cent and that the Atlantic region will be on par the rest of Canada.