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Study: Aboriginal labour market update

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2008 and 2009

Aboriginal people aged 15 and over living off reserve experienced sharper declines in employment rates during the recent labour market downturn than non-Aboriginal people.

Between 2008 and 2009, the average employment rate fell faster for off-reserve Aboriginal people than for non-Aboriginal people. As a result, the gap in employment rates between the two groups widened from 3.5 percentage points in 2008 to 4.8 percentage points in 2009. The average employment rate for Aboriginal people in 2009 was 57.0%, compared with 61.8% for non-Aboriginal people.

At the same time, the unemployment rate rose more sharply for Aboriginal people aged 15 and over. Their rate increased from 10.4% in 2008 to 13.9% in 2009, while the rate for non-Aboriginal people rose from 6.0% to 8.1%.

The biggest employer of core-age (ages 25 to 54) Aboriginal people in 2009 was the health care and social assistance field, followed by trade, construction and manufacturing. For core-age non-Aboriginal people, trade was the top employer, followed by manufacturing, health care and social assistance and professional, scientific and technical services.

Canada's manufacturing industry posted the largest employment losses during 2009. Among non-Aboriginal manufacturing workers in the core-age group, employment declined by 8% (-114,000); the bulk of their losses was in Ontario. At the same time, manufacturing employment fell 30% (-7,000) among their Aboriginal counterparts, mostly in the western provinces.

In the construction industry, Aboriginal employment fell by 16% (-4,000), while it decreased 5% (-45,000) among non-Aboriginal workers.

In 2009, nearly 15% of employed core-age Aboriginal people worked in the health care and social assistance industry. Aboriginal employment in this industry increased by 12% (+4,000) between 2008 and 2009, outstripping a 2% increase among non-Aboriginal people.

The labour market downturn had a particularly harsh impact on young people aged 15 to 24. From 2008 to 2009, the employment rate for off-reserve Aboriginal youth fell by 6.8 percentage points, compared with a decline of 4.2 percentage points among non-Aboriginal youth. Both decreases were much larger than those experienced by workers in the core-age group (ages 25 to 54) over this period.

In 2009, the employment rate was 45.1% for Aboriginal youth, while it was 55.6% for their non-Aboriginal counterparts.

Compared with their counterparts in the other provinces, core-age Aboriginal people in Alberta and British Columbia, two of the provinces hardest hit by the downturn, experienced more pronounced changes in their employment and unemployment rates.

In Alberta, the employment rate for core-age Aboriginal people fell from 75.1% in 2008 to 69.5% in 2009. This decline was more than twice as large as it was for non-Aboriginal people.

In British Columbia, the core-age Aboriginal employment rate fell by 5.6 percentage points to 65.1%, the lowest rate for Aboriginal people among all the provinces.

Note: This report draws on new data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), which examines the labour market outcomes of Aboriginal populations living off-reserve.

The year 2007 marks the first time that the Aboriginal identity questions were extended to all provinces in the LFS. These identity questions were incorporated at an earlier date in Alberta (2003) and in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba (April 2004).

The information in this report excludes the territories.

The Labour Force Survey does not include the population living on Indian reserves. Therefore, the information in this report on the Aboriginal population reflects the situations of the Inuit, Métis and North American Indian people living off-reserve in the provinces.

Although the LFS is a monthly survey, this analysis is based on annual data. The study of annual data is more reliable for small populations such as the Aboriginal population. Moreover, the Atlantic provinces were grouped together to produce more reliable estimates.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3701.

The study "Aboriginal People Living Off-reserve and the Labour Market: Estimates from the Labour Force Survey, 2008-2009" is now available as part of The Aboriginal Labour Force Analysis Series (71-588-X2010001, free). From the Key resource module of our website, under Publications, choose Labour.

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, Yves Decady (613-951-4282;, Labour Statistics Division.