Labour Force Survey, May 2012

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Following two months of large gains, employment was unchanged in May, and the unemployment rate remained at 7.3%.

Compared with 12 months earlier, employment increased 1.2% or 203,000. Virtually all of this growth was in full-time work, up 192,000 (+1.4%). The total number of hours worked rose 1.3% over the same period.

Chart 1 
Chart 1: Employment

Chart description: Employment

CSV version of the chart

Employment for the month increased in manufacturing, educational services, retail and wholesale trade, and agriculture. At the same time, information, culture and recreation as well as construction showed declines.

Provincially, employment rose in Alberta and New Brunswick, while it fell in Prince Edward Island. There was little change in the other provinces.

In May, employment increased among men aged 25 and over, and changed little in the other major demographic groups.

The number of employees and self-employed held steady in May. Employment growth over the previous 12 months was all among private sector employees (+1.7%).

Chart 2 
Unemployment rate
Chart 2: Unemployment rate

Chart description: Unemployment rate

CSV version of the chart

Industry perspective

The number of people working in manufacturing increased by 36,000 in May. Manufacturing employment has been on an upward trend since November 2011.

Employment in educational services increased by 26,000 in May. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment in this industry was up 5.6% (+68,000).

Following a downward trend that started in summer 2011, employment in retail and wholesale trade rose by 24,000 in May. Despite this increase, employment in this industry was 1.5% (-41,000) below its level of 12 months earlier.

In May, employment also rose in agriculture, up by 11,000. Following 10 months of little change, gains in April and May brought employment growth in this industry to 5.0% (+15,000) from 12 months earlier.

Employment in information, culture and recreation fell by 27,000 in May, bringing employment in this industry back to its level of 12 months earlier.

Employment in construction also declined by 27,000 in May, offsetting a gain of similar magnitude in the previous month. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment in this industry was little changed.

Provincial summary

The number of people working in Alberta increased for the second month in a row, up 9,800 in May. This increase pushed the unemployment rate down 0.4 percentage points to 4.5%, the lowest since December 2008. Over the previous 12 months, employment in the province rose 4.1%—the fastest growth of all provinces and exceeding the national average of 1.2%.

Employment in New Brunswick rose for the second consecutive month, up 5,300 in May, and the unemployment rate edged down to 9.4%.

Employment in Quebec edged up in May, following two consecutive months of notable gains, and the unemployment rate was 7.8%. The number of employed in the province was little changed from 12 months earlier.

In Ontario, employment edged down in May, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 7.8%. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment in the province was little changed.

Following notable gains in April, employment in British Columbia was unchanged in May. The unemployment rate rose 1.2 percentage points to 7.4%, as there was a marked increased in the number of job-seekers, particularly among youths. Over the 12 previous months, employment in the province grew by 1.9%, above the national average.

Employment up among men aged 25 and over

For the fourth month in a row, employment rose among men aged 25 and over, up 19,000 in May. Compared with 12 months earlier, the number of employed for this group was up 1.6% (+129,000).

Among women aged 25 and over, employment was unchanged in May. Over the 12 previous months, employment for this group rose 1.7% (+121,000).

Employment edged down among youths aged 15 to 24, and their unemployment rate was 14.3%. Youth employment is roughly at the same level as in July 2009, when the labour market downturn hit a low.

Student summer employment

From May to August, the Labour Force Survey collects labour market data about young people aged 15 to 24 who were attending school full time in March and who intend to return to school full time in the fall. The May survey results provide the first indicators of the summer job market, especially for students aged 20 to 24, as most students aged 15 to 19 are not yet out of school for the summer. The data for June, July and August will provide further insight into the summer job market. The published data are not seasonally adjusted, and therefore comparisons can only be made from one year to another.

The rate of employment among students aged 20 to 24—that is, the number of employed as a percentage of their population—was 58.9% in May 2012. This is lower than the rate of 60.8% observed in May 2011, as the increase in the student population outpaced that of student employment.

The May 2012 employment rate of 58.9% was higher than the 56.3% rate in May 2009, when student employment was hit hard by the labour market downturn.

The unemployment rate for students aged 20 to 24 was 14.9% in May, similar to the rate in May 2011, but well below the 18.2% rate in May 2009.

Note to readers

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates are based on a sample, and are therefore subject to sampling variability. Estimates for smaller geographic areas or industries will have more variability. For an explanation of sampling variability of estimates and how to use standard errors to assess this variability, consult the "Data quality" section of the publication Labour Force Information (Catalogue number71-001-X, free).

Unless otherwise stated, this release presents seasonally adjusted data, which facilitates comparisons by removing the effects of seasonal variations. For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonal adjustment and identifying economic trends.

New LFS tables have been added to CANSIM—tables 282-0200 to 282-0219. They include estimates of weekly and hourly wage distributions by industry and occupation. Also available are labour force estimates by highest educational degree, family type and family age composition, as well as estimates on hours lost, activity prior to unemployment, reason for leaving last job and reason for not looking for work.

Available without charge in CANSIM: tables CANSIM table282-0001 to 282-0042, CANSIM table282-0047 to 282-0063, CANSIM table282-0069 to 282-0095, CANSIM table282-0100 to 282-0121 and CANSIM table282-0200 to 282-0219.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number survey number3701.

A more detailed summary, Labour Force Information (Catalogue number71-001-X, free), is now available online for the week ending May 19. From the Key resource module of our website under Publications, choose All subjects, then Labour.

Data tables are also now available online. From the Subject module of our website, choose Labour.

The next release of the Labour Force Survey will be on July 6.

For more information, contact Statistics Canada's National Contact Centre (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 613-951-8116;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Vincent Ferrao (613-951-4750; or Lahouaria Yssaad (613-951-0627;, Labour Statistics Division.