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Labour Force Survey, December 2016

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Released: 2017-01-06

Employment rose by 54,000 (+0.3%) in December, the result of gains in full-time work. The unemployment rate increased 0.1 percentage points to 6.9%, as more people participated in the labour market.

In the fourth quarter of 2016, employment increased by 108,000 (+0.6%), the largest increase since the second quarter of 2010. This followed a gain of 62,000 (+0.3%) in the third quarter.

In the 12 months to December, employment gains totalled 214,000 or 1.2%, compared with a growth rate of 0.9% observed over the same period one year earlier. A year-end review is presented in a separate section below.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Employment

In December, employment increased among women aged 25 to 54. There was little overall employment change among the other demographic groups.

Quebec and British Columbia recorded increases in employment, while there was little change in the other provinces.

More people were employed in professional, scientific and technical services, and in health care and social assistance. At the same time, employment declined in agriculture.

The number of employees increased in both the public and private sectors in December, while self-employment was little changed.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Unemployment rate
Unemployment rate

Employment increases for women aged 25 to 54

In December, employment for women aged 25 to 54 rose by 31,000. As more women in this age group searched for work, their unemployment rate increased 0.2 percentage points to 5.4%.

Employment was little changed for men aged 25 to 54, and their unemployment rate was virtually unchanged at 6.2%.

Despite little employment change among people aged 55 and older, their unemployment rate increased 0.5 percentage points to 6.2% as more people in this age group searched for work.

Employment among youths aged 15 to 24 was little changed in December, and their unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 12.6%.

Employment up in Quebec and British Columbia

Employment in Quebec rose by 20,000 in December, the result of increases in full-time work. As the number of people searching for work also increased, the unemployment rate rose 0.4 percentage points to 6.6%.

In British Columbia, there were 17,000 more people employed in December. The unemployment rate declined by 0.3 percentage points to 5.8%, the lowest rate among the provinces.

In December, employment was little changed in Ontario and the unemployment rate was 6.4%.

Industry perspective

In December, employment increased by 28,000 in professional, scientific and technical services and by 14,000 in health care and social assistance. In contrast, employment declined by 7,000 in agriculture.

The number of private sector employees rose by 44,000 and the number of public sector employees increased by 29,000 in December. At the same time, self-employment was little changed.

Quarterly update for the territories

The Labour Force Survey collects labour market data in the territories, which are produced in the form of three-month moving averages.

In Yukon, employment increased by 500 between the third and fourth quarters of 2016. The unemployment rate declined by 2.3 percentage points to 4.6% in the fourth quarter.

Employment in the Northwest Territories declined by 500 from the third quarter to the fourth quarter. At the same time, the unemployment rate was little changed at 6.8% as fewer people participated in the labour market.

In Nunavut, employment was little changed in the fourth quarter, and the unemployment rate was also little changed at 14.0%.

Year-end review, 2016

The following analysis focuses on changes from December 2015 to December 2016.

In 2016, employment gains totalled 214,000 or 1.2%, the fastest December-to-December growth since 2012. In comparison, employment grew by 155,000 (+0.9%) in 2015. Almost all of the increase in 2016 occurred from August to December.

Part-time employment trended up throughout 2016, rising by 154,000 or 4.5%, while full-time employment was little changed. During the same period, the number of hours worked was virtually unchanged.

In the 12 months to December, the unemployment rate declined by 0.2 percentage points to 6.9%. Over the same period, both the participation rate (65.8%) and the employment rate (61.3%) were little changed.

Fastest employment growth in British Columbia

In 2016, British Columbia recorded the fastest employment growth rate among the provinces for a second consecutive year, up 3.1% (+72,000). The gains were evenly split between full- and part-time work and spread across many industries. Employment in the province has been on an upward trend since the spring of 2015. However, the pace of growth has been slowing since the summer of 2016. Compared with December 2015, the unemployment rate declined by 0.9 percentage points to 5.8%. British Columbia recorded the lowest provincial unemployment rate from June to December.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Employment in British Columbia
Employment in British Columbia

Employment in Quebec rose 2.2% (+90,000) in 2016, primarily in full-time work (+85,000) and driven by gains in the second half of the year. The unemployment rate has trended downward throughout the 12-month period, declining 1.3 percentage points to 6.6%.

In Ontario, employment increased 1.2% (+81,000) in 2016, mainly in part-time work (+74,000). The unemployment rate declined 0.3 percentage points to 6.4%.

In 2016, employment in Newfoundland and Labrador fell 2.4% (-5,700), all in full time. The unemployment rate was little changed at 14.9%, the result of fewer people participating in the labour market.

At year end, employment in Saskatchewan was down by 1.2% (-6,900). All of the decline occurred in the first two months of 2016. In the 12 months to December, the unemployment rate in the province increased by 1.0 percentage point to 6.5%, continuing an upward trend that began in late 2014.

In Alberta, employment edged down (-0.8% or -19,000) in the 12 months to December. There were notable employment declines in manufacturing, natural resources, and information, culture and recreation. At the same time, employment increased in the "other services" industry and public administration. In 2016, the number of people searching for work increased by 40,000, pushing the unemployment rate up 1.5 percentage points to 8.5%.

Service sector continues to lead employment growth

From December 2015 to December 2016, employment increased by 2.0% in the service sector, while it declined by 1.6% in the goods-producing sector.

In 2016, employment in information, culture and recreation rose by 6.5% (+49,000), following little change in 2015. Employment in this industry has been on an upward trend since the spring.

Employment in the "other services" industry grew 5.5% (+42,000) in 2016, driven by gains in the last three months of the year. Employment in this industry increased notably in Quebec and Alberta.

In public administration, employment increased by 3.9% (+36,000), with most of the growth in Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

There were more people employed in finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing (+3.5% or +39,000) in 2016. Employment in this industry has been on an upward trend throughout the year.

Year over year, employment also increased in accommodation and food services (+2.6% or +31,000), construction (+2.0% or +27,000) and wholesale and retail trade (+1.4% or +38,000).

On the other hand, employment in natural resources fell 8.3% (-29,000) in 2016, with most of the decline occurring in Alberta and Ontario. There were also decreases in Newfoundland and Labrador as well as New Brunswick. At the national level, the largest declines were in oil and gas extraction.

In agriculture, employment was down by 4.7% (-14,000), mainly in Quebec.

The number of workers in manufacturing declined by 3.1% (-53,000), mostly in the first four months of the year. Employment in this industry decreased mainly in Alberta and British Columbia.

On a year-over-year basis, the number of public sector employees increased by 2.0% (+71,000), driven by gains in public administration; information, culture and recreation; and health care and social assistance. The number of private sector employees rose by 1.9% (+222,000), with increases across a number of industries in the service sector.

Self-employment decreased by 2.8% (-78,000) from December 2015 to December 2016. This decline was partly due to the fact that self-employment peaked in December 2015. The declines over this period were spread across several service sector industries.

Employment up among core-age and older people

In the 12 months to December, employment rose by 2.8% (+105,000) among people aged 55 and older. At the same time, their population increased by 3.0% (+310,000), continuing a long-term upward trend related to an aging population.

For women aged 55 and older, employment rose by 3.8% (+64,000) in 2016, while their population increased by 2.9% (+157,000). The participation rate for this group was essentially unchanged at 32.6% and their unemployment rate was 5.2%.

Among men aged 55 and older, employment grew by 2.0% (+41,000) in 2016, and the population increased by 3.1% (+154,000). Their unemployment rate increased 0.7 percentage points to 7.0% as more men in this age group searched for work. The participation rate for men aged 55 and older was virtually unchanged at 43.7%.

For people aged 25 to 54, employment rose 0.8% (+100,000) in 2016, while their population increased 0.2% (+35,000).

Employment increased by 1.3% (+72,000) among women aged 25 to 54, and their unemployment rate declined 0.3 percentage points to 5.4%. The participation rate for this group rose by 0.6 percentage points to 82.6%.

For men aged 25 to 54, employment edged up (+0.5% or +28,000) in the 12 months to December, and their unemployment rate declined 0.5 percentage points to 6.2%. Their participation rate declined by 0.4 percentage points to 90.9%.

In 2016, employment among youths aged 15 to 24 was virtually unchanged, while their population declined by 46,000 (-1.0%). As a result, their rate of employment increased 0.7 percentage points to 56.1%. The youth unemployment rate was little changed at 12.6%.

  Note to readers

Upcoming revisions

A standard revision to the Labour Force Survey (LFS) data will be released on February 3. The LFS seasonally adjusted estimates available in CANSIM will be revised back to January 2014 using updated seasonal factors.

Beginning with the release of January data on February 10, occupation data will be based on the 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC). Because NOC2016 maintains the NOC 2011 structure of major, minor and unit groups, no historical revision of data is necessary.

The LFS estimates for December are for the week of December 4 to 10.

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 the 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 Employment, Payrolls, 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 the population for that group.

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 facilitate 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 February 10.


A more detailed summary, Labour Force Information (Catalogue number71-001-X), is now available for the week ending December 10.

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).

The technical paper History of the Canadian Labour Force Survey, 1945 to 2016 is also now available. This document summarizes many of the major changes that have been made in the past 70 years to various components of the Labour Force Survey, including methodology, questionnaire as well as collection and processing techniques.

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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