Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Study: Temporary employment in the downturn

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.

Related subjects

1997 to 2009

In 2009, 1.8 million Canadians worked in some type of temporary job. Temporary work accounted for 12.5% of paid employment, a slight decrease from its peak of 13.2% in 2005.

After growing rapidly from 1997 to 2005, the temporary employment rate slowed in 2006. The number of temporary jobs declined a year before the downturn in total employment.

On average, these temporary jobs pay lower wages and provide fewer benefits than permanent positions. In addition, they are non-unionized and part time more often. Although temporary jobs are typically viewed as a uniform group, trends in temporary employment as well as their underlying issues vary widely depending on the type of job.

In 2009, contract positions accounted for just over one-half (52%) of temporary jobs, representing nearly 1 million workers. The other half was equally composed of seasonal and casual workers.

Since 1997, contract jobs have grown at a faster pace than other types of temporary employment. Contract jobs increased by more than 3% between 2005 and 2009, despite the overall employment downturn in 2008.

Professionals make up a large proportion of contract employees. On average, contract workers are more educated and slightly younger than permanent workers. Contract jobs are concentrated in health, education and public administration, industries that were relatively untouched by the recent economic slowdown.

From 2005 to 2009, seasonal employment fell by more than 3%. The number of seasonal jobs fell in traditionally seasonal industries like fishing and forestry, as well as in manufacturing and accommodation and food services.

In 2009, construction remained the top industry for seasonal employment, followed by information and cultural industries and the primary sector.

Casual jobs are those whose hours vary according to the demands of the employer. They are found mainly in retail and wholesale trade, education, health care, and the accommodation and food services industries.

Casual employment fell by more than 10% between 2005 and 2009, with losses affecting most sectors. Nearly one-half (47%) of casual workers were under 25 years of age, and one-quarter of them were students.

The hourly wage gap between temporary and permanent positions varied from 14% for contract jobs to nearly 34% for seasonal and casual positions. This gap remained constant both in periods of growth and slowdown.

Part of the gap was due to the relative youth of temporary workers, in general, and lower average education levels of seasonal and casual workers. After adjusting for such differences, the gap was much smaller. It ranged from 5% to 21%, depending on sex and the type of temporary job.

Characteristics such as unionization, work patterns and company size explained another portion of the gap. After these factors were taken into account, the gap for casual workers was nearly the same as the gap for all other temporary workers.

Temporary workers also work fewer hours, on average, which increases the weekly earnings gap with permanent employees.

Note: The article "Temporary employment in the downturn" is based on the Labour Force Survey. It examines temporary employment, its main components (seasonal, contract and casual jobs) and how they performed during the most recent employment slowdown. A brief profile of workers in temporary jobs is also provided, as well as characteristics of their jobs. Finally, the earnings gap between temporary and permanent positions is examined.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3701.

The article "Temporary employment in the downturn" is now available in the November 2010 online edition of Perspectives on Labour and Income, Vol. 11, no. 11 (75-001-X, free), from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Diane Galarneau (613-951-4626;, Labour Statistics Division.