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Labour Force Survey, May 2016

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Released: 2016-06-10

Employment was little changed in May (+14,000 or +0.1%). With fewer people searching for work, the unemployment rate declined 0.2 percentage points to 6.9%, the lowest rate since July 2015.

Full-time employment rose by 61,000 in May. This increase was largely offset by a decline of 47,000 in part-time work.

In the 12 months to May, employment increased by 109,000 or 0.6%, the result of gains in full-time work. Over the same period, the number of hours worked grew by 0.8%.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Employment

In May, employment increased for both men and women aged 55 and older, while it fell for youths aged 15 to 24. There was little change among the other demographic groups.

Provincially, employment rose in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island, while it decreased in Alberta and Nova Scotia.

There were more people employed in the "other services" industry; public administration; construction; business, building and other support services; educational services; and manufacturing. These gains were partly offset by declines in wholesale and retail trade; health care and social assistance; and natural resources.

The number of public sector employees increased in May, while there was little change among private sector employees and the self-employed.

Adjusted to US concepts, the unemployment rate in Canada was 5.9% in May, compared with 4.7% in the United States.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Unemployment rate
Unemployment rate

Employment increases for people 55 and older, decreases for youths

In May, employment among men aged 55 and older increased by 25,000, pushing their unemployment rate down 0.8 percentage points to 6.0%. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment for this group rose by 71,000 (+3.6%), mostly the result of growth in their population (+157,000 or +3.2%).

Employment for women aged 55 and older rose by 20,000 in May, and their unemployment rate declined by 0.4 percentage points to 5.1%. In the 12 months to May, employment for this group increased by 88,000 (+5.5%) and their population rose by 158,000 (+3.0%).

For people aged 25 to 54, employment was virtually unchanged in May, and the unemployment rate was 6.0%. On a year-over-year basis, employment for women in this group increased by 38,000 (+0.7%), while it was little changed for men.

Employment among youths aged 15 to 24 fell by 35,000 in May, bringing losses to 82,000 (-3.3%) over the past 12 months. The youth population was down 48,000 (-1.1%) on a year-over-year basis. In May, their unemployment rate was little changed at 13.3%, as fewer youths participated in the labour market.

Employment up in Quebec and Ontario, down in Alberta

In Quebec, employment rose by 22,000 in May, the first increase since July 2015. The unemployment rate declined 0.4 percentage points to 7.1%. Compared with May 2015, employment in the province was little changed.

Employment in Ontario also increased by 22,000 in May, bringing the unemployment rate down 0.4 percentage points to 6.6%. On a year-over-year basis, employment in this province was up 79,000 (+1.1%).

In May, employment increased by 2,900 in Manitoba, and the unemployment rate was 5.9%. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment in the province was virtually unchanged.

In Alberta, employment fell by 24,000 in May. Losses were spread across several industries, with notable declines in natural resources (-12,000 or -8.2%). The total number of hours worked across all industries decreased 5.1% in May, the largest monthly decline in 30 years. These declines coincided with the wildfires in northern Alberta, which affected business operations in a number of industries, including oil and gas extraction.

The unemployment rate for Alberta rose 0.6 percentage points to 7.8% in May. In the 12 months to May, employment in the province decreased by 54,000 (-2.3%).

Employment declined by 3,600 in Nova Scotia in May. However, the unemployment rate remained at 8.3%, as the number of people participating in the labour market also decreased. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment in the province was little changed.

Industry perspective

In "other services," such as those related to civic and professional organizations and private households, employment rose 24,000 in May. On a year-over-year basis, employment in the industry was little changed.

In May, employment in public administration increased by 19,000, with some of the gains associated with the 2016 Census. In the 12 months to May, employment in public administration was up by 44,000 (+5.0%). Part of this growth was due to the fact that employment in this industry was at a low point in May 2015.

There were 19,000 more people working in construction in May. On a year-over-year basis, employment in this industry rose by 42,000 (+3.1%), with all of the gains occurring since November.

In business, building and other support services, employment was up 17,000 in May, following a similar-sized decline in April. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment in this industry was little changed.

Employment in educational services rose by 14,000 in May, but was little changed compared with 12 months earlier.

Following two months of declines, employment in manufacturing was up by 12,000 (+0.7%) in May. On a year-over-year basis, employment in this industry edged down (-1.4%).

In May, the number of people employed in wholesale and retail trade fell by 41,000, with most of the decline in the retail sector. Compared with 12 months earlier, however, employment in this industry was essentially unchanged.

There were 25,000 fewer people working in health care and social assistance in May. Despite this decline, employment in this industry increased by 32,000 (+1.4%) compared with the same month the previous year.

Employment in natural resources fell by 16,000 in May, continuing a long-term downward trend that began in 2014. In the 12 months to May, employment in this industry declined by 37,000 (-10.4%), with most of the losses in Alberta.

The number of employees in the public sector increased by 30,000 in May, bringing year-over-year gains to 70,000 (+2.0%). On both a monthly and year-over-year basis, there was little change in the number of private sector employees and self-employed workers in May.

Summer employment for students

From May to August, the Labour Force Survey (LFS) collects labour market data on youths 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 many students aged 15 to 19 are still in school. Data for June, July and August will provide further insight into the summer job market. Published data are not seasonally adjusted and, therefore, comparisons can only be made with data for the same month in previous years.

The employment rate among returning students aged 20 to 24, that is, the number of employed as a percentage of their population, was 59.5% in May, similar to that of 12 months earlier. The unemployment rate for this group of students was 13.8% in May, little changed from May 2015.

Canada–United States comparison

Adjusted to US concepts, the unemployment rate in Canada was 5.9% in May versus 4.7% in the United States. Compared with May 2015, the unemployment rate was unchanged in Canada, while it decreased 0.8 percentage points in the United States.

The labour force participation rate in Canada (adjusted to US concepts) was 65.5% in May, compared with 62.6% in the United States.

In May, the US-adjusted employment rate in Canada stood at 61.7%, compared with 59.7% in the United States. On a year-over-year basis, the employment rate in Canada declined by 0.3 percentage points, while in the United States, it increased by 0.3 percentage points.

For further information on Canada–US comparisons, see "Measuring Employment and Unemployment in Canada and the United States – A comparison."

Impact of the wildfires in the area of Fort McMurray on the Labour Force Survey collection and estimates

As a result of the wildfires affecting northern Alberta, which led to the evacuation of residents from the Fort McMurray area, LFS data for May were not collected for the census agglomeration of Wood Buffalo.

The population of Fort McMurray represents 2% of the population of Alberta. Therefore, the impact of not collecting labour force data in Fort McMurray is minimal on the provincial employment estimates, and negligible on the national estimates.

The impact is larger for smaller sub-provincial areas that include Fort McMurray, specifically for the economic region of Wood Buffalo–Cold Lake, of which 60% are residents of Fort McMurray. Using standard statistical techniques, missing data for Fort McMurray were replaced by substituted values taken from similar respondents from surrounding areas. Note that estimates for economic regions are presented in the form of three-month moving averages, so any impact of not collecting labour force data is minimized.

Regular LFS collection in all other areas of Canada was unaffected, and occurred from Sunday, May 22 to Tuesday, May 31. The LFS reference week for May was from Sunday, May 15 to Saturday, May 21.

Statistics Canada is aware of the difficult circumstances affecting residents of the Fort McMurray area. The decision to resume data collection for the LFS in Fort McMurray will be taken in collaboration with Alberta's provincial and local governments.

  Note to readers

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates for May are for the week of May 15 to 21.

The LFS estimates are based on a sample and are therefore subject to sampling variability. As a result, monthly estimates will show more variability than trends observed over longer time periods. For more information, see "Interpreting Monthly Changes in Employment from the Labour Force Survey." Estimates for smaller geographic areas or industries also 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).

This analysis focuses on differences between estimates that are statistically significant at the 68% confidence level.

The LFS estimates are the first in a series of labour market indicators released by Statistics Canada, which includes indicators from programs such as the Survey of Payroll Employment, Earnings and Hours (SEPH), Employment Insurance statistics, and the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey. For more information on the conceptual differences between employment measures from the LFS and SEPH, refer to section 8 of the Guide to the Labour Force Survey (Catalogue number71-543-G).

The employment rate is the number of employed people as a percentage of the population aged 15 and older. The rate for a particular group (for example, youths aged 15 to 24) is the number employed in that group as a percentage of that group's population.

The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed as a percentage of the labour force (employed and unemployed).

The participation rate is the number of employed and unemployed as a percentage of the population.

Seasonal adjustment

Unless otherwise stated, this release presents seasonally adjusted estimates, which facilitates comparisons by removing the effects of seasonal variations. For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonally adjusted data – Frequently asked questions.

Chart 1 shows trend-cycle data on employment. These data represent a smoothed version of the seasonally adjusted time series, which provides information on longer-term movements, including changes in direction underlying the series. These data are available in CANSIM table 282-0087 for the national-level employment series. For more information, see the StatCan Blog and Trend-cycle estimates – Frequently asked questions.

Next release

The next release of the LFS will be on July 8.


A more detailed summary, Labour Force Information (Catalogue number71-001-X), is now available for the week ending May 21. From the Browse by key resource module of our website, under Publications, choose All subjects, then Labour.

More information about the concepts and use of the Labour Force Survey is available online in the Guide to the Labour Force Survey (Catalogue number71-543-G), from the Browse by key resource module of our website, under Publications.

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Andrew Fields (613-951-3551; or Emmanuelle Bourbeau (613-951-3007;, Labour Statistics Division.

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