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Labour Force Survey, December 2017

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Released: 2018-01-05

Employment increased for a third consecutive month, up 79,000 in December. The unemployment rate continued on a downward trend, decreasing by 0.2 percentage points to 5.7%, the lowest since comparable data became available in January 1976.

The employment increase in December was concentrated in part-time work, which rose by 55,000.

The additional employment in December builds on growth observed in October and November. This boosted gains for the fourth quarter to 193,000 or 1.0%, the most robust rate of quarterly growth since the second quarter of 2010.

In the 12 months to December 2017, employment was up 423,000 (+2.3%), with nearly all the gains in full-time work (+394,000 or +2.7%). Over the same period, total hours worked grew 3.1%.

The unemployment rate followed a downward trend in the 12 months to December, falling 1.2 percentage points over this period. A year-end review is presented in a separate section below.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Employment

Chart 2  Chart 2: Unemployment rate
Unemployment rate


In December, employment increased for men and women aged 25 to 54 as well as for people aged 55 and over. There was little overall change for youth aged 15 to 24.

The largest employment gains in December were observed in Quebec and Alberta, while there were smaller increases in Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

There were more people working in the services-producing sector, led by finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing. Employment also increased in "other services", educational services, and transportation and warehousing.

In the goods-producing sector, there were more people employed in natural resources.

Employment gains in December were observed among self-employed workers and public sector employees. The number of private sector employees held steady.

More core-aged and older workers

In December, employment increased by 52,000 among core-aged people (25 to 54), with gains of 33,000 for men and 19,000 for women.

The added employment for core-aged men lowered their unemployment rate by 0.2 percentage points to 4.8%—the lowest rate since April 1981. For women in the same age group, the unemployment rate was little changed, also at 4.8%, as the increase in their employment was matched by an additional number of core-aged women participating in the labour market.

In December, there were 33,000 more workers aged 55 and over, including 18,000 men and 15,000 women. The unemployment rate was little changed for this age group: 6.1% for men and 4.5% for women.

Employment for youth aged 15 to 24 held steady in December, following two consecutive monthly gains. An increase in part-time employment (+31,000) was offset by a decline in full-time work (-37,000). Despite little overall employment change in December, the youth unemployment rate fell 0.5 percentage points to 10.3% as fewer youths searched for work.

Quebec and Alberta leading employment growth

Employment in Quebec grew for a third consecutive month, up 27,000 in December. With more people employed and fewer searching for work, the unemployment rate fell by 0.5 percentage points to 4.9%, continuing a notable downward trend that began at the start of 2016.

In Alberta, employment increased by 26,000, mostly in full-time work. The unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage points to 6.9%. Employment gains were observed in a number of industries, led by accommodation and food services, and by natural resources.

In December, employment rose by 5,900 in Nova Scotia, the first significant increase since March 2017. The additional employment lowered the unemployment rate in the province by 0.8 percentage points to 8.0%.

In Saskatchewan, employment increased by 5,000, all in part-time work. This is the first notable employment increase in the province since February 2017. As more people searched for work, the unemployment rate increased by 0.4 percentage points to 6.4%.

Following a decline in November, employment in New Brunswick increased by 4,200 in December. The unemployment rate fell by 0.5 percentage points to 7.8%.

In Prince Edward Island, there were 900 additional people working in December, a second consecutive monthly increase. The unemployment rate for the province increased by 1.0 percentage point in December to 9.8%, the result of more Prince Edward Islanders searching for work.

In Ontario, employment was little changed in December, after a notable increase the previous month. The unemployment rate in the province remained at 5.5%.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Unemployment rate by province, December 2017
Unemployment rate by province, December 2017

Employment gains in a number of industries

In December, 25,000 more people were employed in finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing, following three months of little change.

Employment was up by 13,000 in the "other services" industry in December. "Other services" include services such as those related to civic and professional organizations, and personal and laundry services.

In educational services, employment rose by 11,000 in December, a second consecutive monthly increase.

In December, 9,500 additional people worked in transportation and warehousing, the first notable employment increase in the industry since the summer of 2017.

Employment in natural resources rose by 5,800 in December.

The number of self-employed workers increased by 28,000 in December. At the same time, public sector employment rose by 22,000, while the number of private sector employees was stable.

Quarterly update for the territories

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

In the fourth quarter, employment in Yukon rose by an estimated 500 people compared with the third quarter, and the unemployment rate was relatively unchanged at 3.6%.

In the Northwest Territories, employment in the fourth quarter was unchanged from the previous quarter. Over the same period, the unemployment rate remained at 7.0%.

Employment in Nunavut held steady in the fourth quarter, while the unemployment rate decreased to 12.1%.

Year-end review, 2017

The following analysis focuses on changes from December 2016 to December 2017.

In 2017, employment increased by 423,000 (+2.3%), the fastest December-to-December growth rate since 2002. In comparison, employment grew by 229,000 (+1.3%) in 2016.

Full-time employment followed an upward trend in 2017, increasing by 394,000 (+2.7%), while part-time employment held relatively steady.

In the 12 months to December, the unemployment rate fell by 1.2 percentage points to 5.7%, the lowest since comparable data became available in January 1976.

Provincial perspective

In Ontario, employment grew 2.5% (+176,000) in 2017, just over double the growth rate recorded in each of the previous two years. Full-time employment accounted for nearly all of the employment gains in 2017. There were more workers in a number of industries, led by wholesale and retail trade; manufacturing; professional, scientific and technical services; and transportation and warehousing. The unemployment rate in the province fell by 0.9 percentage points in 2017 to cap the year at 5.5%.

In 2017, employment in Quebec rose 2.1% (+87,000), slightly below the 2.3% national growth rate. Gains in full-time work accounted for nearly all of the employment growth in the province and coincided with a 1.6 percentage point decrease in the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate has been on a two-year downward trend, falling to 4.9% at the end of 2017, the lowest since comparable data became available in January 1976. See chart Unemployment rate in Quebec, January 1976 to December 2017.

In 2017, British Columbia closed out the year with an employment growth rate of 3.4% (+83,000), similar to that of 2016. The gains in 2017 were almost all in full-time work, and were mainly in health care and social assistance; construction; and finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing. In the 12 months to December, the unemployment rate in British Columbia fell by 1.2 percentage points to 4.6%, the lowest among all provinces.

Following a slide in employment from the autumn of 2015 to the summer of 2016, the labour market in Alberta added workers in 2017, with a growth rate of 2.4% (+55,000), the best performance since 2014. The employment gains were attributable to manufacturing; wholesale and retail trade; natural resources; finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing; and transportation and warehousing. The unemployment rate fell from 8.5% at the end of 2016 to 6.9% at the end of 2017.

In Manitoba, employment grew by 2.1% (+13,000) in 2017, slightly below the national growth rate. This follows relatively stable levels of employment over the previous two years. The gains in 2017 were mainly in full-time work. The unemployment rate in the province fell by 0.6 percentage points to 5.7% at the end of 2017.

In 2017, employment rose by 6,300 in Nova Scotia, all in full-time work. The unemployment rate was little changed, closing the year at 8.0%.

Following little change in 2016, employment in Prince Edward Island rose 3.9% (+2,800) in 2017, with all of the gains in full-time work. The unemployment rate for the province ended the year at 9.8%.

In New Brunswick, employment was little changed in 2017. However, the unemployment rate fell by 1.5 percentage points to 7.8%, the result of fewer people participating in the labour force.

In 2017, there was little change in both employment and the unemployment rate in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as in Saskatchewan.

Focus on industries

In the 12 months to December, employment increased by 3.5% in the goods-producing sector and by 2.0% in the services-producing sector.

In the goods-producing sector, employment grew in manufacturing (+5.1% or +86,000), natural resources (+4.6% or +15,000) and construction (+3.6% or +51,000). Employment increases in natural resources in 2017 followed heavy losses recorded over the previous two years (-6.4% in 2015 and -7.3% in 2016).

In the services-producing sector, employment grew in a number of industries, led by transportation and warehousing (+6.3% or +57,000); finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing (+4.6% or +53,000); and professional, scientific and technical services (+3.8% or +53,000). Smaller growth rates were recorded in wholesale and retail trade (+2.9%); educational services (+2.1%); and health care and social assistance (+1.3%).

More workers aged 55 and over

In the 12 months to December, the number of employed people aged 55 and over increased 5.3% (+203,000), exceeding the rate of population growth for this group (+2.9% or +311,000).

For women aged 55 and over, employment rose 6.3% (+110,000) in 2017, while their population increased 2.8% (+157,000). The participation rate for this group rose by 0.9 percentage points to 33.5%, and the unemployment rate fell 0.7 percentage points to 4.5% at the end of 2017.

Among men aged 55 and over, employment grew 4.5% (+93,000) in 2017, and the population increased 3.0% (+154,000). Their unemployment rate fell 0.9 percentage points to 6.1%. The participation rate for men in this age group was little changed at 43.9% at the end of 2017.

Among workers aged 55 and over, 8 out of 10 are between the ages of 55 and 64. The estimated year-over-year rate of employment growth in 2017 (unadjusted for seasonality) for this group was 5.4%, while the rate of their population growth was 2.0%.

In comparison, people aged 65 and over comprise a smaller share of older workers, but their proportion has been increasing over the past decade. This group had the fastest year-over-year rate of employment growth among the major demographic groups in December, rising 7.8% and outpacing its rate of population growth (+3.7%). For more information about recent trends among older workers, see Labour in Canada: Key results from the 2016 Census and "The impact of aging on labour market participation rates."

For people aged 25 to 54, employment increased 1.6% (+186,000) in 2017, while their population rose 0.3% (+50,000).

Employment rose 1.7% (+107,000) among men aged 25 to 54, and their unemployment rate fell by 1.4 percentage points to 4.8%. The participation rate for this group was unchanged at 90.9%.

For women aged 25 to 54, employment increased 1.4% (+78,000) in the 12 months to December, and their unemployment rate declined 0.6 percentage points to 4.8%. Their participation rate edged up 0.3 percentage points to 82.9%.

In 2017, employment among young people aged 15 to 24 rose 1.4% (+34,000), while their population declined 0.5% (-20,000). As a result, their employment rate increased 1.1 percentage points to 57.2%. The youth unemployment rate fell by 2.3 percentage points to 10.3%, as 66,000 fewer people searched for work.

Sustainable Development Goals

On January 1, 2016, the world officially began implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—the United Nations' transformative plan of action that addresses urgent global challenges over the next 15 years. The plan is based on 17 specific sustainable development goals.

The Labour Force Survey is an example of how Statistics Canada supports the reporting on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. This release will be used in helping to measure the following goals:

  Note to readers

A standard revision to the Labour Force Survey (LFS) data will be released on February 2, 2018. The LFS seasonally adjusted estimates available in CANSIM will be revised back to January 2015 using updated seasonal factors.

The LFS estimates for December 2017 are for the week of December 3 to 9.

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 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 people as a percentage of the labour force (employed and unemployed).

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

Full-time employment consists of persons who usually work 30 hours or more per week at their main or only job.

Part-time employment consists of persons who usually work less than 30 hours per week at their main or only job.

In general, month-to-month or year-to-year changes in the number of people employed in an age group reflect the net effect of two factors: (1) the number of people who changed employment status between reference periods; and (2) the number of employed people who entered or left the age group (including through aging, death or migration) between reference periods.

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 9, 2018.


A more detailed summary, Labour Force Information (Catalogue number71-001-X), is now available for the week ending December 9, 2017.

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 updated Labour Market Indicators dashboard (Catalogue number71-607-X) is available. This interactive dashboard provides easy, customizable access to key labour market indicators. Users can now configure an interactive map and chart showing labour force characteristics at the national, provincial or census metropolitan area level.

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 Vincent Ferrao (613-951-4750;, Gordon Song (613-793-2392;, or Client Services (toll-free: 1-866-873-8788;, Labour Statistics Division.

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