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Study: Canada's immigrant labour market

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The Daily

Monday, September 10, 2007

Very recent immigrants who have been in Canada five years or less, that is, who landed between 2001 and 2006, had the most difficulty integrating into the labour market, even though they were more likely than the Canadian-born population to have a university education. In 2006, the national unemployment rate for these immigrants was 11.5%, more than double the rate of 4.9% for the Canadian-born population.

The situation improved for immigrants who had been in Canada between 5 and 10 years, that is, those who landed between 1996 and 2001. Their unemployment rate was 7.3%.

As expected, the longer immigrants remained in Canada, the better they fared in the labour market, and the more the gap narrowed between them and Canadian-born workers, according to new data on immigrants from the Labour Force Survey.

This new report shows that for the most part, established immigrants, those in the country for more than 10 years, had labour market outcomes in 2006 that most closely resembled those of Canadian-born workers. This is likely a reflection of their integration into the Canadian labour market over time.

The report focused on the labour market in Canada for immigrants in the core working age group, 25 to 54, in comparison with Canadian-born workers.

It pointed to the fact that many newcomers may need time to adjust to their new life in Canada and break into the workforce.

Note to readers

To better understand the labour market experiences of immigrants, the Labour Force Survey (LFS) began collecting information in January 2006 that specifically identified working-age immigrants, those aged 15 and over, in the survey population.

Five questions were added to the survey to identify immigrants and determine when they landed in Canada, and the country in which they were born and received their highest level of education. These questions were added as a result of a partnership with Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

The LFS is now able to provide regular information on the immigrant labour market. This information will enable various levels of government, the media and the public to know, in a timely manner, how well immigrants are performing in the labour market and how well the Canadian labour market utilizes the skills its immigrants bring.

Immigration is becoming increasingly important to Canada's economic well-being. Roughly two-thirds of Canada's population growth comes from net international migration. Population projections show that net immigration may become the only source of population growth by about 2030 and could account for virtually all net labour force growth by 2011.

The data support previous reports that have shown that newly landed immigrants face many barriers to finding a job. For example, respondents to the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada cited lack of Canadian work experience, lack of recognition of foreign credentials and language barriers as the most severe impediments to labour force integration for recent immigrants to Canada.

Immigrants benefit from high labour demand in Alberta

Immigrants in strong labour markets, such as Alberta's hot economy, tended to have relatively strong labour market outcomes, the report found. Immigrants in both Alberta and Manitoba benefited from strong provincial labour markets in 2006, and had some of the best labour market outcomes of all immigrants in the country.

The unemployment rate among very recent immigrants living in Alberta (those who became landed immigrants to Canada between 2001 and 2006) was 5.8% in 2006; less than half the national average for this group. This rate was, however, more than double the unemployment rate for Canadian-born Albertans (2.6% in 2006).

Immigrants in Quebec experienced substantially higher unemployment rates in 2006 than Canadian-born Quebeckers, no matter when they landed.

Higher jobless rates for immigrants regardless of education

Immigrants aged 25 to 54 were more likely to have a university education than Canadian-born men and women in 2006. While 36% of immigrants in this age group had at least a bachelor's degree, the proportion was only 22% among those born in Canada.

However, while unemployment rates for Canadian-born workers were lower for people with progressively higher levels of education, rates for very recent immigrants remained high regardless of their level of education.

The unemployment rate in 2006 among the very recently landed who had bachelor's degrees was 11.4%, four times the rate of only 2.9% for Canadian-born workers who were university-educated.

Similarly, the unemployment rate for those very recent newcomers who had a graduate degree was 12.4%, compared with only 2.4% for their Canadian-born counterparts.

Immigrants who had been in Canada longer also had lower employment rates and higher unemployment rates than the Canadian born with the same education. However, the more time immigrants had been landed in Canada, the more closely their unemployment and employment rates resembled those of the Canadian born.

Unemployment rate highest among newest immigrants in Montréal

Very recent core-working-age immigrants (those who had been in Canada for five years or less) had much higher unemployment rates than their Canadian-born counterparts in all three of Canada's largest census metropolitan areas (CMAs) in 2006, especially in Montréal.

This group of very recent immigrants in Montréal had an unemployment rate of 18.1% in 2006, three times as high as the rate of 5.9% among Canadian-born Montréalers.

Similarly, very recent immigrants in Toronto and Vancouver also faced unemployment rates that were close to three times the rates experienced by the Canadian born in their cities. In Toronto, the unemployment rate for core-working-age very recent immigrants was 11.0%, while it was 4.0% among Canadian-born Torontonians. In Vancouver, the rate was 9.6% for these very recent immigrants, compared with 3.3% among the Canadian born in Vancouver.

Again, these higher unemployment rates reflect the difficulties encountered by very recent immigrants in the initial phases of their settlement in Canada.

Calgary's hot labour market benefited immigrants and Canadian-born workers alike in 2006. Canadian-born workers aged 25 to 54 in Calgary had the highest employment rate (89.3%) among the eight mid-sized CMAs selected for this study.

The strong demand for labour in 2006 was particularly apparent among the city's immigrants who had been in the country for five years or less. Their employment rate was 73.6%—still below that of their Canadian-born counterparts in Calgary, but higher than that of very recent immigrants in the seven other mid-sized CMAs, as well as Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Immigrant women struggle in the labour market

The report showed that labour market outcomes were better for immigrant men than their female counterparts, and that young immigrant women in particular have struggled.

Immigrant women in the core-working-age group of 25 to 54 had higher unemployment rates and lower employment rates than both immigrant men and Canadian-born women, regardless of how long they had been in Canada.

For example, the unemployment rate among women who had been in Canada for five years or less was 13.0% in 2006, somewhat higher than 10.3% among men in the same group.

In contrast, among Canadian-born workers, the unemployment rate for men was 5.2%, and for women, just 4.6%.

Young immigrants (aged 15 to 24), especially women, had much more difficulty in the labour market than their Canadian-born counterparts.

On the whole, immigrant youths who had been in Canada for five years or less had an unemployment rate of 17.2% in 2006, well above the rate of 11.2% for their Canadian-born counterparts.

The unemployment rate for very recent immigrant women aged 15 to 24 was 19.9%, twice the rate of 9.8% among young Canadian-born women.

Immigrants more likely to work in manufacturing industries

Immigrants were more likely to work in manufacturing industries than Canadian-born workers, as well as in professional, scientific and technical services. They were also more likely to be employed in accommodation and food service industries than those born in Canada.

In 2006, 19.6% of immigrants who had been in the country for five years or less worked in the manufacturing industry, compared with 13.0% of Canadian-born workers. Furthermore, weakness in manufacturing since the end of 2002 may have resulted in job losses among immigrants, particularly in Central Canada, where declines in factory employment have been the most pronounced.

Among Canadian-born workers, the biggest employer in 2006 was the retail and wholesale trade industry, with a 13.8% share. It was also the second-largest employer of immigrants, regardless of time since landing.

In terms of occupations, new immigrants who landed since 2001 were more likely to be working in sales and service jobs than Canadian-born workers.

Occupations in the natural and applied sciences were also more common among newly-landed immigrants than among Canadian-born workers.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3701.

A more detailed summary, "The Canadian Immigrant Labour Market in 2006: First Results from Canada's Labour Force Survey", as part of The Immigrant Labour Force Analysis Series (71-606-XWE2007001, free), is now available online. From the Publications module of our website, under Free Internet publications, choose Labour.

For general information or to order data, contact Client Services (toll-free 1-866-873-8788; 613-951-4090; To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Danielle Zietsma (613-951-4243) or Jason Gilmore (613-951-7118), Labour Statistics Division.