Portrait of Canada's Labour Force

Highlights

Overview of Canada's labour force

  • According to the National Household Survey (NHS), Canada had 17,990,080 labour force participants aged 15 years and over during the week of Sunday, May 1 to Saturday, May 7, 2011, of which 16,595,035 had a job. The employment rate was 60.9%.

  • In 2011, Yukon and Alberta had the highest employment rates in Canada at 69.7% and 69.0% respectively. The lowest employment rates were observed in Newfoundland and Labrador (50.7%) and Nunavut (52.1%).

  • Among all census metropolitan areas (CMAs), Calgary had the highest employment rate at 70.0%, followed by Regina (69.1%) and Edmonton (69.0%).

Employment by highest level of educational attainment

  • In May 2011, the employment rate for the population aged 25 to 64 was 75.3%. In general, employment rate increases with education level. The employment rate for those with university credentials was 81.6% compared to 55.8% for those who had no certificate, diploma or degree.

Employment by industrial sector

  • The three industrial sectors with the largest employment shares in 2011 were retail trade, health and social assistance and manufacturing.

  • In 2011, the retail trade sector ranked first among all sectors in terms of its share of total employment at 11.5%, accounting for 1,907,605 workers.

Occupations among women and men

  • The 20 most common occupations among women accounted for 45.8% of their total employment. In comparison, 30.1% of men worked in their 20 most common occupations.

  • In 2011, the most common occupation among women was retail salesperson (accounting for 4.7% of all employed women), followed by administrative assistant (4.0%), registered nurse and registered psychiatric nurse (3.4%), cashier (3.3%) and elementary school and kindergarten teacher (2.9%).

  • Among men, the most common occupation was retail salesperson (accounting for 3.3% of all employed men), followed by transport truck driver (2.9%), retail and wholesale manager (2.5%), carpenter (1.7%) and janitor, caretaker and building superintendent (1.7%).

Aging of the workforce

  • According to the 2011 NHS, workers aged 55 and over accounted for 18.7% of total employment compared to 15.5% in the 2006 Census.

  • In 2011, just over 3 million people aged 55 and over were employed. The employment rate for this age group was 34.9% compared to 32.2% in the 2006 Census.

Mobility of the workforce

  • The Northwest Territories had the highest proportion of workers in 2011 who lived in another province or territory five years earlier (19.2%), followed by Nunavut (17.3%) and the Yukon (16.1%).

  • Among the provinces, Alberta (7.6%) and Prince Edward Island (7.3%) had the largest proportions of workers in 2011 living in another province or territory five years earlier, while Quebec (1.0%) and Ontario (1.7%) had the lowest.

Text Box 1: National Household Survey

This is the second release of data from the National Household Survey (NHS). Roughly 4.5 million households across Canada were selected for the NHS, representing about one-third of all households.

This analytical document contains the results from the NHS on labour. A companion analytical document, Education in Canada: Attainment, Field of Study and Location of Study, Catalogue no. 99-012-X2011001, analyses findings from the NHS on education.

In addition, there are three articles in the NHS in Brief series entitled Commuting to work, Language use in the workplace in Canada and The educational attainment of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, Catalogue no. 99-012-X2011003.

Further information on the National Household Survey can be found in the National Household Survey User Guide, Catalogue no. 99-001-X. Specific information on the quality and comparability of NHS data on labour can be found in the Labour Reference Guide, National Household Survey, Catalogue no. 99-012-X2011007.

End of text box 1.

Overview of Canada's labour force

Highest employment rates in the North and West

According to the National Household Survey (NHS), Canada had 17,990,080 people aged 15 years and over in the labour force during the week of Sunday, May 1 to Saturday, May 7, 2011.

Of these labour force participants, 16,595,035 were employed, and the employment rate – that is, the number of persons employed expressed as a percentage of the total population aged 15 years and over, was 60.9%.Footnote 1

In comparison, at the time of the 2006 Census, 15,958,195 were employed and the employment rate was 62.6%.

The unemployment rate in 2011 was 7.8%, compared with 6.6% in the 2006 Census.

In 2011, Yukon and Alberta had the highest employment rates in Canada, at 69.7% and 69.0% respectively. Employment rates were also above the national average in the Northwest Territories (66.8%), Saskatchewan (65.1%) and Manitoba (63.1%).

The lowest employment rates were observed in Newfoundland and Labrador and in Nunavut at 50.7% and 52.1% respectively (Figure 1).

Among all census metropolitan areas (CMAs), Calgary had the highest employment rate at 70.0%, followed by Regina (69.1%) and Edmonton (69.0%). The lowest employment rates were in Windsor (53.3%), Peterborough (55.8%) and Trois-Rivières (55.9%).

Employment by highest level of educational attainment

Employment rate increases with education level

In 2011, the employment rate for the population aged 25 to 64 was 75.3%. For this group, 30.8% had university credentials while 12.7% had no certificate, diploma or degree. In general, the employment rate increases with education level. The employment rate for those with university credentialsFootnote 2 was 81.6% compared to 55.8% for those who had no certificate, diploma or degree (Table 1).

In 2011, Nunavut (93.0%), the Northwest Territories (90.3%) and the Yukon (86.4%) had the highest employment rates for those with a university education. The lowest rates were observed in Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia, both with 79.2%.

For those with a college degree, the employment rates ranged from 84.4% in Saskatchewan to 74.8% in Newfoundland and Labrador. For those with a trade certificate, the highest employment rates were in Alberta (84.6%), Saskatchewan (84.2%) and Manitoba (80.6%), while the lowest rates were found in Newfoundland and Labrador (66.9%) and Nunavut (68.9%).

Among those with a high school diploma as their highest level of educational attainment, employment rates ranged from 80.4% in the Northwest Territories to 58.6% in Newfoundland and Labrador.

For those with no certificate, diploma or degree, Alberta had the highest employment rate at 67.5%, followed by Saskatchewan at 61.8%. The lowest rates were in Newfoundland and Labrador (39.7%) and Nunavut (45.1%).

The difference in the employment rate for persons with university credentials compared to those with no certificate, diploma or degree varied by province or territory. For example, the difference was smallest in Alberta at 16.9 percentage points, followed by Prince Edward Island (20.9 percentage points) and Saskatchewan (22.8 percentage points). In comparison, the largest gaps were in Nunavut (47.9 percentage points) and Newfoundland and Labrador (39.5 percentage points).

Employment by industrial sector

Retail trade sector had the highest share of total employment

In 2011, the retail trade sector ranked first among all sectors in terms of its share of total employment with 11.5% (Figure 2), accounting for 1,907,605 workers.

This was followed closely by health care and social assistance sector with 11.4% of total employment, or 1,886,980 workers.

The manufacturing sector had the third highest share with 9.2% of total employment or 1,525,400 workers.

This was followed by educational services sector (7.5%) and public administration sector (7.3%), accounting for 1,247,050 and 1,212,070 workers respectively.

Occupations among women and men

In 2011, women comprised slightly less than half of the employed labour force (48.0%). Among the 10 broad occupational categories, women aged 15 years and over were most likely to be employed in sales and service occupations (27.1%); business, finance and administration occupations (24.6%); and occupations in education, law and social, community and government services (16.8%) (Figure 3).

In comparison, men were most likely employed in trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations (25.5%); sales and service occupations (18.7%); and management occupations (13.9%).

The 2011 NHS also provides the distribution of workers across 500 detailed occupations. The 20 most common occupations for women accounted for 45.8% of their total employment. In comparison, 30.1% of men worked in their 20 most common occupations.

The most common occupations for women were retail salesperson and administrative assistant

Among the detailed occupations, the most common occupation for women was retail salesperson (accounting for 4.7% of all employed women), followed by administrative assistant (4.0%), registered nurse and registered psychiatric nurse (3.4%), cashier (3.3%) and elementary school and kindergarten teacher (2.9%) (Table 2).

Among the 20 most common occupations for women, women accounted for more than 9 out of 10 workers in: administrative assistant; registered nurse and registered psychiatric nurse; early childhood educator and assistant; and receptionist.

The most common occupations for men were retail salesperson and truck driver

Among the detailed occupations, the most common occupation for men was retail salesperson (accounting for 3.3% of all employed men), followed by transport truck driver (2.9%), retail and wholesale trade manager (2.5%), carpenter (1.7%) and janitor, caretaker and building superintendent (1.7%) (Table 3).

Among the 20 most common occupations for men, men accounted for more than 9 out of 10 workers in: transport truck driver; carpenter; automotive service technician, truck and bus mechanic and mechanical repairer; construction trades helper and labourer; welder and related machine operator; electrician; and delivery and courier service driver.

Aging of the workforce

Almost one out of five workers was aged 55 years and over

According to the 2011 NHS, workers aged 55 years and over accounted for 18.7% of total employment compared to 15.5% in the 2006 Census. This is the result of the aging of the baby boom generation and the increased participation of older workers in the labour force.

According to 2011 data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD),Footnote 3 the proportion of workers aged 55 and over in Canada was similar to those in other G8 countries such as Germany (17.9%) and the United Kingdom (17.4%). This share was lower than that of the United States (20.7%) and Japan (27.1%), but larger than that of Russia (12.6%), France (13.7%) and Italy (14.1%).

In 2011, just over 3 million people aged 55 and over were employed. The employment rate for this age group was 34.9% compared to 32.2% in the 2006 Census.

Among the occupations with at least 20,000 workers, the occupations with the highest proportion of workers aged 55 and over were: manager in agriculture (49.0%), professional occupation in religion (40.2%), bus driver, subway operator, and other transit operator (39.6%).

Occupational skill levels

Data from the 2011 NHS were classified into four occupational skill levels using the National Occupational Classification (NOC) 2011 (see Box 2: Concepts and definitions).

Skill level B was the most prevalent group, accounting for almost one third of the workforce aged 15 years and older (31.5%). Occupations at skill level B include those usually requiring college education or apprenticeship training as well as supervisory positions acquired through experience.

Skill level A, the second largest grouping which accounted for 29.9% of the workforce, includes both managers and professionals. Managers are at the top of organizational hierarchies and are characterized by high levels of responsibility, accountability and subject matter expertise gained through either formal education or extensive occupational experience. Professional positions are defined as those usually requiring a university education. Overall, managers accounted for 11.5% of employed persons, while professionals represented 18.3%.

Skill level C consists of occupations that usually require secondary school or occupation-specific training. This group represented 27.7% of workers aged 15 years and over.

Skill level D includes occupations for which on-the-job training is usually provided. In 2011, 11.0% of the employed population held this type of occupation.

Mobility of the workforce

In 2011, 516,475 workers, or 3.2%Footnote 4 of the employed population aged 15 and over, lived in a different province or territory five years earlier (Figure 4).

The Northwest Territories had the highest proportion of workers in 2011 who lived in another province or territory 5 years earlier (19.2%), followed by Nunavut (17.3%) and the Yukon (16.1%).

Among the provinces, Alberta (7.6%) and Prince Edward Island (7.3%) had the largest proportions of workers in 2011 living in another province or territory five years earlier, while Quebec (1.0%) and Ontario (1.7%) had the lowest.

Text Box 2: Concepts and definitions

Labour force
Person who were employed or unemployed during the week of Sunday, May 1 to Saturday, May 7, 2011. Labour force = employed + unemployed persons.
Employed persons

Persons who, during the week of Sunday, May 1 to Saturday, May 7, 2011:

  • did any work at all at a job or business, that is, paid work in the context of an employer-employee relationship, or self-employment. It also includes unpaid family work, which is defined as unpaid work contributing directly to the operation of a farm, business or professional practice owned and operated by a related member of the same household;
  • had a job but were not at work due to factors such as own illness or disability, personal or family responsibilities, vacation, labour dispute or other reasons (excluding persons on layoff, between casual jobs, and those with a job to start at a future date).
Employment rate

Persons employed during the week of Sunday, May 1 to Saturday, May 7, 2011, expressed as a percentage of the total population aged 15 years and over.

The employment rate for a particular group (age, sex, marital status, geographic area, etc.) is the number of persons employed in that group, expressed as a percentage of the total population in that particular group.

Occupation

Occupation refers to the kind of work persons were doing during the week of Sunday, May 1 to Saturday, May 7, 2011, as determined by their kind of work and the description of the main activities in their job.

The occupational data of the 2011 National Household Survey are produced using the National Occupational Classification (NOC) 2011. The NOC 2011 is composed of four levels of aggregation. There are 10 broad occupational categories containing 40 major groups that are further subdivided into 140 minor groups. These minor groups include 500 occupational unit groups. Occupation unit groups are formed on the basis of the education, training, or skill level required to enter the job, as well as the kind of work performed, as determined by the tasks, duties and responsibilities of the occupation.

Occupational skill level

The NHS makes it possible to assign a skill level to each occupation. There are four occupational skill levels with level A often divided into two subgroups:

  • NOC skill level A
    • (a)1  Management
    • (a)2  Professional: occupations usually require university education
  • NOC skill level B: occupations usually require college education or apprenticeship training.
    Level B occupations forming each of the table's subgroups:
    • Occupations usually requiring college education: Aggregate subgroups 12, 13, 22, 32, 42, 43 and 52.
    • Construction and equipment operation trades: Aggregate subgroups 72 and 73.
    • Supervisory occupations: Aggregate subgroups 62, 63, 82 and 92.
  • NOC skill level C: occupations usually require secondary school or occupation-specific training.
  • NOC skill level D: on-the-job training is usually provided for these occupations.
Highest level of educational attainment

The term 'Highest level of educational attainment' used in this document refers to the Highest certificate, diploma or degree completed by a person. The portion of the population that completed each type of education noted is the portion that completed it as their highest certificate, diploma or degree.

'Highest certificate, diploma or degree'isa derived variable obtained from the educational qualifications questions, which asked for all certificates, diplomas and degrees to be reported.

In this document, the following categories were used:

  • No certificate, diploma or degree
  • Secondary (high) school certificate or equivalent
  • Apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma
  • College, CEGEP or other non-university certificate or diploma
  • University credentials: University certificate or diploma below bachelor level; University certificate or diploma or degree at the bachelor level or above: bachelor's degree; university certificate or diploma above bachelor level; degree in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or optometry; master's degree; earned doctorate.

Throughout this document, certain category names are shortened for ease of use in text and graphics. These short forms are outlined here:

  1. The term 'college diploma' refers to 'college, CEGEP or other non-university certificate or diploma.'
  2. The term 'trades certificate' refers to 'apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma' and is an aggregation which includes both 'Registered Apprenticeship certificates' as well as 'trades certificates other than Registered Apprenticeship certificates.'

Note that 'University credentials' includes a proportion of 4.9% of adults aged 25 to 64 who had a university certificate or diploma below bachelor level in 2011. Comparisons with other data sources suggest that the category 'University certificate or diploma below the bachelor's level' was over-reported in the NHS. It is recommended that users interpret the results for this category with caution. For detailed explanations on concepts and for information on data quality, please refer to the reference guides on the Census Program website.

Industrial sector

The general nature of the business carried out in the establishment where the person worked.

The 2011 National Household Survey industry data are produced according to the 2007 NAICS. The NAICS provides enhanced industry comparability among the three North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) trading partners (Canada, United States and Mexico). This classification consists of a systematic and comprehensive arrangement of industries structured into 20 sectors, 102 subsectors and 324 industry groups. The criteria used to create these categories are similarity of input structures, labour skills or production processes used by the establishment.

Mobility – Place of residence five years earlier
Mobility refers to the relationship between a person's usual place of residence on the reference day (May 10, 2011) and his or her usual place of residence on the same day five years earlier. A person is classified as a non-mover if the place of residence has not changed in the interval. Otherwise, a person is classified as a mover. Movers include non-migrants and migrants. Non-migrants are persons who did move but remained in the same city, town, township, village or Indian reserve. Migrants include internal migrants who moved to a different city, town, township, village or Indian Reserve within Canada. External migrants include persons who lived outside Canada at the earlier reference date.

End of text box 2.

Additional information

Additional information on labour can be found in the NHS Data Tables,Catalogue nos. 99-012-X2011033 through 99-012-X2011039 and 99-012-X2011051 through 99-012-X2011054, the NHS Profile, Catalogue no. 99-010-X, as well as in the NHS Focus on Geography Series, Catalogue no. 99-010-X2011005.

For details on the concepts, definitions, universes, variables and geographic terms used in the 2011 National Household Survey, please consult the National Household Survey Dictionary, Catalogue no. 99-000-X. For detailed explanations on concepts and for information on data quality, please refer to the reference guides on the Census Program website.

Note to readers

Random rounding and percentage distributions: To ensure the confidentiality of responses collected for the 2011 National Household Survey while maintaining the quality of the results, a random rounding process is used to alter the values reported in individual cells. As a result, when these data are summed or grouped, the total value may not match the sum of the individual values, since the total and subtotals are independently rounded. Similarly, percentage distributions, which are calculated on rounded data, may not necessarily add up to 100%.

Due to random rounding, estimates and percentages may vary slightly between different 2011 National Household Survey products, such as the analytical documents and various data tables.

Comparability between estimates from the 2006 Census long form and the 2011 National Household Survey estimates: When comparing estimates from the 2006 Census long form and estimates from the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) users should take into account the fact that the two sources represent different populations. The target population for the 2006 Census long form includes usual residents in collective dwellings and persons living abroad whereas the target population for the NHS excludes them. Moreover, the NHS estimates are derived from a voluntary survey and are therefore subject to potentially higher non-response error than those derived from the 2006 Census long form.

Comparability between the 2011 National Household Survey estimates and those of the Labour Force Survey: Both the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) and the Labour Force Survey (LFS) collect data on the labour force status of the population. For the most part, labour force status estimates from the NHS are similar to those from the monthly Labour Force Survey, for the same time period, at the national and provincial levels. However, there are conceptual differences between the two surveys. For more information on the comparability of the National Household Survey and the Labour Force Survey refer to Appendix 2.1 of the National Household Survey Dictionary, Catalogue no. 99-000-X.

In addition, data users should be aware that in May 2011, the reference periods between the two surveys had a gap of two week. Previously, the gap between the reference periods of the LFS and the long-form census was one week. This additional week between reference periods occurred during a strategic time of the year for youth as the academic year was at, or near, its end and job searching and hiring for the summer may have began for many. It should be noted that employment and participation rates for individuals aged 15 to 24, particularly those aged 15 to 19, show a larger discrepancy between the two surveys for May 2011 than for previous cycles.

Acknowledgments

This report was prepared by Diane Galarneau of Statistics Canada's Labour Statistics Division, with the assistance of staff from Statistics Canada's Labour Statistics Division, Census Subject Matter Secretariat, Geography Division, Census Operations Division, Dissemination Division and Communications Division.

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