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Impact of H1N1 and seasonal flu on hours worked

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December 2009 (Previous release)

The number of employed people who reported they were absent from work due to the H1N1 or seasonal flu in December, and the number of hours lost, declined significantly from November.

In December, 734,000 employed people aged 15 to 69 reported they were absent from work due to the H1N1 or seasonal flu, according to data derived from questions added to January's Labour Force Survey. They represented 4.4% of workers in that age group. On average, each absent worker lost 18.3 hours of work, for a total of 13.4 million hours lost.

All figures were down from November, when 9.0% of workers had lost an average of 19.6 hours of work each as a result of the flu, for a total of 29.5 million hours lost.

In December, 471,000 people aged 15 to 69 put in a total of 6.9 million extra hours at work, due to the H1N1 or seasonal flu. The combined effect of hours lost and extra hours worked resulted in a net loss of 6.5 million hours in December. This was down by about two-thirds from the net flu-related loss of 20.9 million hours in November.

In December, 4.9% of women reported work hours lost as a result of the flu, down from 10.5% the month before. Among men, flu-related absenteeism fell from 7.6% to 4.0%. The age group most affected in December was workers aged 35 to 39, of whom 6.1% were absent from work.

Provincially, the flu-related absenteeism rate declined in every province from November to December. The largest decrease occurred in Newfoundland and Labrador, where it fell from 14.2% of workers to 4.7%. Absent workers from this province were off the longest among all provinces in December (21.5 hours).

Note: The Public Health Agency of Canada commissioned Statistics Canada to assess the impact of the H1N1 and seasonal flu on hours worked, using the Labour Force Survey (LFS). Data for this release were derived from four special questions added to January's LFS to estimate the impact of the H1N1 and seasonal flu on hours worked for the entire month of December. These were: how many people lost work time; how many hours they lost; the number of people who worked overtime or extra hours; and the amount of extra time they put in. The responses provided some measurement of the overall economic impact of the H1N1 and seasonal flu.

Work absence due to the H1N1 or seasonal flu includes the respondent's own flu-related illness or that of their immediate family members, as well as any flu-related medical appointments.

The LFS usually only collects absence data related to illness in general (namely, there are no specific questions about flu illness) for the survey reference week. As a result, direct comparisons cannot be made between these special questions and data collected from previous LFS monthly releases.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3701.

For more 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 Jason Gilmore (613-951-7118), Labour Statistics Division.