The purchasing power of Whistlerites is on the decline.
In 2005 the median income in the resort was reported at $18,998, down more than $750 over the previous year and more than $3,000 from 2002.
The statistic, which was presented as part of the 2006 Whistler2020 Monitoring Report, grabbed council’s attention Monday night.
“It seems almost impossible to me,” said Councillor Ralph Forsyth, who questioned how there could be a downward pressure on wages and yet a lack of employees to fill jobs.
Councillor Eckhard Zeidler looked at it a little differently; maybe there are fewer employees working because the median income is going down, he said.
Dan Wilson, Whistler 2020 Monitoring Coordinator at the municipality, cautioned against trying to interpret the statistic at face value.
Several factors could be playing a role in the downward trend, among them: people choosing to work less, more students working in the workforce for shorter time periods, and employers providing less hours of work per person.
The statistics for 2006, when local employers reported a lack of employees overall to fill jobs, won’t be available until next year, added Wilson.
The statistics do not mean that the income is going down for everyone in Whistler, said Wilson; it could be going down for a segment in the community.
At the same time, trends for median income in Squamish and North and West Vancouver for 2005 showed increases, while Pemberton’s median income trend was similar to Whistler’s.
The monitoring report, an annual report which began in 1993 in Whistler and has recently been realigned with the community’s sustainability plan, shows not just economic indicators but also social and environmental trends.
Of all the priorities outlined in the community sustainability plan, protecting the environment fared the worst in this year’s monitoring report.
Councillor Tim Wake said it was ironic to see Whistler’s environmental performance trending away from its sustainability goals.
In particular he highlighted the resort’s increase in greenhouse gas emissions and water use. Whistler’s development footprint and energy use are also trending in the wrong direction.
At the same time there were several indicators trending towards Whistler’s vision of success and sustainability, such as an increase in occupancy rates and the total number of room nights sold in a given year, and a decrease in the number of unlawful incidents.
To review the trends in the resort go to www.whistler2020.ca.