Appendix 2.1 Comparability of the 2011 National Household Survey Labour force status data with those of the Labour Force Survey

Both the National Household Survey (NHS) and the Labour Force Survey (LFS) collect data on the labour market activities of the Canadian population.

However, there are a number of fundamental differences between the two surveys with respect to:

  • enumeration method
  • coverage
  • sample size
  • reference period
  • number of questions and their content.
  1. Enumeration method

    In the NHS, the method used for most respondents is self-enumeration; that is, people complete the questionnaire themselves. There were two primary collection methods: a paper questionnaire and an online collection stream, although in some instances, a respondent may have been asked by an enumerator to complete the questionnaire.

    The LFS is administered by experienced interviewers using computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI).

  2. Coverage

    The National Household Survey is a voluntary survey. It includes all people who usually live in Canada, including persons asking for refugee status, and persons from another country with a work, study or temporary resident permit and family members living with them. The survey excludes people living in institutions such as hospitals and retirement homes.

    The LFS is a mandatory survey. It covers the civilian, non-institutionalized population 15 years of age and over. It is conducted nationwide, in both the provinces and the territories. Excluded from the survey's coverage are: persons living on reserves and other Aboriginal settlements in the provinces; full-time members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the institutionalized population. National Labour Force Survey estimates are derived using the results of the LFS in the provinces. Territorial LFS results are not included in the national estimates, but are published separately.

  3. Sample size

    Approximately 4.5 million households across Canada were selected for the National Household Survey. This represents about one third of all households.

    The monthly LFS sample size is approximately 56,000 households, resulting in the collection of labour market information for approximately 100,000 individuals.

  4. Reference period

    The reference period for the National Household Survey was the week of Sunday, May 1 to Saturday, May 7, 2011. All households in the NHS sample in remote and northern areas of the country received the NHS questionnaire between February and April 2011, in which case, the reference period was the week prior to the date on which the household was enumerated.

    The reference period for the May 2011 Labour Force Survey was the week of Sunday, May 15 to Saturday, May 21, 2011.

  5. Number of questions and their content

    The National Household Survey questionnaire included five questions on labour market activities: number of hours worked for pay or in self-employment; temporary lay-off or absence from job or business; existence of definite arrangements to start a new job within the next four weeks; search for paid work (full-time or part-time) during the past four weeks; and availability to start a job during the last week if one had been available. There are three possible sequences of questions depending on the respondent's situation. For example, a respondent who reports having worked one or more hours during the reference week is not required to answer the other four questions.

    The LFS contains a more extensive set of labour questions. The interview is computer-assisted, which makes it possible to tailor the sequence and content of the questions to the respondent. The method also provides the opportunity to clarify and correct responses as the interview progresses.

    The assignment of the labour force status values, i.e., 'employed,' 'unemployed' and 'not in the labour force' can differ between the two surveys because the following individuals can be classified differently:

    • Self-employed workers

      In the NHS, self-employed workers who do not report working any hours or being absent from work during the reference week would be classified as 'Unemployed' or 'Not in the labour force,' depending on their responses to the other questions.

      In the LFS, the same self-employed workers may be coded as 'Employed' if they attributed their absence to not having any work during the reference week. The NHS does not ask respondents the reason for their absence.

    • Persons on lay-off

      In both the NHS and the LFS, persons on lay-off are classified as 'Unemployed' if they are available for work, or as 'Not in the labour force' if they are not available for work during the reference week.

      According to the LFS, persons on lay-off have been temporarily released by their employers, because of business conditions. They must have a definite date to return to work, or an indication that they will be recalled in the future. The lay-off period must not exceed one year, and seasonal workers are not included in this category.

      According to the NHS, persons on lay-off expect to return to their jobs. No limit is specified for returning to work or for the duration of the lay-off. Seasonal workers are not explicitly excluded from this category.

    • Students

      In the LFS, full-time students currently attending schools and looking for full-time work are not considered to be available for work during the reference week. They are assumed to be looking for a summer or co-op job or permanent job to start sometime in the future, and are therefore not part of the labour force.

      In the NHS, full-time students looking for full-time work who are not employed and are available for work are considered unemployed.

For more information about the LFS, refer to the Guide to the Labour Force Survey, Catalogue no. 71-543-G.

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