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Labour Force Survey, May 2019

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Released: 2019-06-07

Employment held steady in May, following a strong increase in April. The unemployment rate was down 0.3 percentage points to 5.4%, as the number of people looking for work decreased sharply following little change over the previous three months. The unemployment rate in May was the lowest since comparable data became available in 1976.

Compared with May 2018, employment grew by 453,000 or 2.4%, reflecting gains in both full-time (+299,000) and part-time (+154,000) work. Over the same period, total hours worked were up 1.0%.

To explore the most recent results from the Labour Force Survey in an interactive format, visit the "Labour Force Survey in brief: Interactive app."

Chart 1  Chart 1: Employment

Chart 2  Chart 2: Unemployment rate
Unemployment rate


Employment rose in Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. At the same time, it fell in Newfoundland and Labrador and in Prince Edward Island, while it was little changed in the remaining provinces.

Employment was up for core-aged men (25 to 54 years old), while it was little changed among core-aged women, as well as people 55 and older. Employment fell for youth aged 15 to 24.

More people were working in health care and social assistance; professional, scientific and technical services; as well as transportation and warehousing. In contrast, employment decreased in business, building and other support services; accommodation and food services; and public administration.

Self-employment increased in May, while the number of employees in both the private and public sectors was little changed.

Employment up in four provinces

Employment in Ontario rose by 21,000 in May, with notable increases among the core-aged population and among women. The unemployment rate declined by 0.8 percentage points to 5.2%, as fewer people searched for work. Year over year, employment was up by 222,000 or 3.1%.

Following little change in the previous five months, employment in British Columbia rose by 17,000 in May. Employment growth was primarily due to an increase in part-time work among core-aged people. The unemployment rate in the province declined by 0.3 percentage points to 4.3%, as more people participated in the labour market. Compared with May 2018, employment in the province grew by 107,000 (+4.3%).

Employment in Nova Scotia rose by 4,500, driven by full-time gains. The unemployment rate was little changed at 6.5%. Compared with May 2018, employment was up 15,000 (+3.2%), with increases in both full-time and part-time work.

In New Brunswick, employment grew by 3,000 in May, as full-time gains more than offset declines in part-time employment. The unemployment rate was down 0.8 percentage points to 7.2%, as fewer people searched for work. On a year-over-year basis, employment was little changed.

Employment in Newfoundland and Labrador was down 2,700, driven by losses in part-time work. The unemployment rate rose by 0.7 percentage points to 12.4%. After trending downward in the second half of 2018, the unemployment rate in this province has been relatively flat since the beginning of 2019. Year over year, employment was little changed.

Employment fell by an estimated 700 in Prince Edward Island, as a result of declines in part-time work, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 9.0%. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment was little changed.

In Quebec, both the unemployment rate (at 5.0%) and employment were little changed in May. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment increased 1.4%.

Following a notable increase in April, employment in Alberta was little changed in May and the unemployment rate held steady at 6.7%. On a year-over-year basis, employment rose by 20,000 (+0.9%).

Industry overview

There were 20,000 more people working in health care and social assistance in May, bringing year-over-year gains in this industry to 89,000 (+3.7%). Over half of the monthly increase was in Ontario.

Employment in professional, scientific and technical services was up 17,000, more than offsetting a decline in the previous month. The rise in May was concentrated in Ontario, while smaller increases were also registered in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment in this industry grew by 67,000 (+4.5%).

Employment in transportation and warehousing grew by 10,000, driven by increases in Ontario and Alberta. On a year-over-year basis, employment in this industry rose by 60,000 (+5.6%).

At the same time, 19,000 fewer people were working in business, building and other support services, mostly due to declines in Quebec and Alberta. Compared with May 2018, employment in this industry was little changed.

Employment in accommodation and food services was down by 12,000, the fourth decline in the last five months. In May, decreases were concentrated in British Columbia and Manitoba. Employment in this industry has trended downward since May 2018, decreasing by 63,000 (-5.0%) over the 12 months.

In public administration, employment decreased by 9,000, following four consecutive monthly increases. The decline was driven by Quebec and Alberta. On a year-over-year basis, employment was up by 33,000 (+3.4%).

Notable gains in self-employment

Following little change in the previous three months, the number of self-employed workers rose by 62,000 in May, while the number of employees in the public and private sectors was little changed.

Compared with 12 months earlier, the number of self-employed rose by 93,000 (+3.3%). Over the same period, the number of private sector employees grew by 335,000 (+2.8%), while there was little change in the number of public sector employees.

Employment up for core-aged men, down for youth

For people of core working age (25 to 54), employment was up by 48,000 in May, driven by increases among men (+35,000). The unemployment rate for core-aged men decreased by 0.3 percentage points to 4.7%. For women in this age group, the unemployment rate declined by 0.7 percentage points to 4.1%, the lowest rate since comparable data became available in 1976. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment among core-aged men grew by 121,000 (+1.9%), while it rose by 127,000 (+2.2%) among core-aged women.

Employment among those aged 55 and older was little changed in May, while it was up by 141,000 (+3.5%) compared with 12 months earlier. The unemployment rate in May was unchanged at 5.3% for this age group.

Among youth aged 15 to 24, employment was down by 22,000 in May, driven by young men. The youth unemployment rate was 10.0%. The decrease in youth employment follows several notable increases observed since the start of 2019. On a year-over-year basis, youth employment rose by 64,000 (+2.6%).

Summer employment for students

From May to August, the Labour Force Survey 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 younger students are still in school. Data for June, July and August will provide further insight into the summer job market. As published data are not seasonally adjusted, comparisons can only be made with data for the same month in previous years.

Compared with 12 months earlier, employment among 20- to 24-year-old students grew by 32,000 (+7.4%) in May, as a result of an increase in part-time work. The unemployment rate for this group was down 2.8 percentage points to 10.8%. At the same time, the employment rate for this same group rose by 6.0 percentage points to 63.0%, the highest rate for the month of May since 2008.

In May 2019, there were 35,000 (+8.5%) more 17- to 19-year-old students employed compared with May 2018, driven by an increase in part-time employment. The employment rate was little changed at 50.7%, as the population of students in this age group grew at a similar pace to employment. The unemployment rate for this younger group of students was also little changed at 13.4%.

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

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates for May are for the week of May 12 to 18.

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.

Total hours worked refers to the number of hours actually worked at the main job by the respondent during the reference week, including paid and unpaid hours. These hours reflect temporary decreases or increases in work hours (for example, hours lost due to illness, vacation, holidays, or weather; or more hours worked due to overtime).

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.

To align with priorities established by the Gender Results Framework, new indicators have been added to tables 14-10-0340-02, 14-10-0335-02, 14-10-0335-03 and 14-10-0327-03, detailing Labour Force Survey characteristics by gender. These new indicators highlight the differences in employment characteristics between women and men, such as the wage gap by occupation, the proportion employed by occupation, and the proportion working full-time or part-time jobs.

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 for the national and provincial employment series in table 14-10-0287-01 and for national employment by industry in table 14-10-0355-01. 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 5.


Labour Force Information (Catalogue number71-001-X), is now available for the week ending May 18.

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 product "Labour Force Survey in brief: Interactive app" (Catalogue number14200001) is now available. This interactive visualization application provides seasonally adjusted estimates available by province, sex, age group and industry. Historical estimates going back five years are also included for monthly employment changes and unemployment rates. The interactive application allows users to quickly and easily explore and personalize the information presented. Combine multiple provinces, sexes and age groups to create your own labour market domains of interest.

The product "Labour Market Indicators, by census metropolitan area, seasonally adjusted" (Catalogue number71-607-X) is also 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.

The product "Labour Market Indicators, by province, territory and economic region, unadjusted for seasonality" (Catalogue number71-607-X) is also available. This dynamic web application provides access to Statistics Canada's labour market indicators for Canada, by province, territory and economic region and allows users to view a snapshot of key labour market indicators, observe geographical rankings for each indicator using an interactive map and table, and easily copy data into other programs.

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 Myriam Hazel (613-219-4345; or Dylan Saunders (613-762-6972;, Labour Statistics Division.

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