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Labour Force Survey, December 2019

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Released: 2020-01-10

Employment increased by 35,000 (+0.2%) in December, and the unemployment rate fell 0.3 percentage points to 5.6%.

In the 12 months to December, employment increased by 320,000 (+1.7%), the result of gains in full-time work (+283,000 or +1.9%). Over the same period, the number of hours worked was little changed.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Employment

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


In December, employment increased in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island, while a decline was recorded in Newfoundland and Labrador.

There were more employees in the private sector (+57,000 or +0.5%) in December, offsetting a decline of a similar size in November.

Employment increased in accommodation and food services and in construction, while it was little changed in the other industries.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Unemployment rate
Unemployment rate

Employment gains led by Ontario and Quebec

In Ontario, employment increased by 25,000 (+0.3%) in December, the result of gains in full-time work. More Ontarians were working in construction and public administration. The unemployment rate in the province decreased 0.3 percentage points to 5.3%.

Employment in Quebec increased by 21,000 (+0.5%) in December, partially offsetting a decline in November. There were more people working in accommodation and food services as well as in manufacturing, two industries where employment had decreased in the previous month. In December, the unemployment rate in Quebec declined 0.3 percentage points to 5.3%.

There were 2,800 (+0.4%) more Manitobans employed in December compared with November. This was mostly due to gains in part-time work for youth aged 15 to 24. At the same time, the number of people working full-time declined. The unemployment rate in the province dropped 0.6 percentage points to 5.0%.

Employment in Prince Edward Island increased by 1,100 (+1.4%), the first notable increase since July. The unemployment rate in the province was little changed at 7.9%.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, employment fell by 5,000 (-2.2%) in December, the first decline since June 2019 and the largest since October 2016. Most of the decline in December was in full-time work and was spread across the goods- and services-producing sectors. The unemployment rate in the province was 11.8%.

Employment was little changed in all other provinces.

More workers in accommodation and food services, construction

In December, employment grew by 25,000 (+2.0%) in the accommodation and food services industry, driven by gains in Quebec.

Employment in construction increased by 17,000 (+1.2%), with British Columbia and Ontario contributing the most to the rise.

Following two months of decline, employment in manufacturing was little changed in December.

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 of 2019, the number of people employed in Yukon declined by an estimated 1,000, compared with the third quarter, pushing the unemployment rate up by 1.8 percentage points to 4.5%.

Employment declined by 1,400 in the Northwest Territories from the third quarter to the fourth quarter. The unemployment rate was little changed at 8.4%.

Employment was little changed in Nunavut in the fourth quarter. As fewer people searched for work, the unemployment rate decreased to 11.6%, the lowest rate since 2009.

Year-end review

The following analysis focuses on changes from December 2018 to December 2019.

In the 12 months to December 2019, employment in Canada increased by 320,000 or 1.7%, a faster pace than that observed over the same period in 2018 (+1.1%). The growth was spread across the first three quarters of the year and was mostly the result of gains in full-time work (+283,000 or +1.9%).

During the year, the unemployment rate declined to 5.4% in May, a record low since comparable data became available in January 1976. At the end of 2019, the rate was 5.6%, the same as in December 2018.

Full-time employment growth in Canada driven by gains in Ontario

Compared with December 2018, employment in Ontario increased 243,000 (+3.3%), the largest year-over-year increase for the month of December since 1987. Employment gains were mostly in full-time work (+227,000 or +3.8%). There were increases in a number of industries, including professional, scientific and technical services, as well as health care and social assistance. In contrast, there were fewer Ontarians employed in manufacturing in December 2019 compared with December 2018.

Employment increased in Quebec by 63,000 (+1.5%) from December 2018 to December 2019, with nearly all the growth in full-time work. The gains were among youth aged 15 and 24 and people aged 55 and over. The unemployment rate in Quebec was little changed compared with December 2018, though it declined to 4.7% in August, a record low since comparable data became available in January 1976.

In the 12 months to December 2019, employment increased by 6,700 (+1.5%) in Nova Scotia, led by health care and social assistance as well as manufacturing. At the same time, there were declines in information, culture and recreation. Over half of the employment growth in the province was among youth. After declining to a low of 6.2% in March, the unemployment rate in Nova Scotia increased to 7.9% in December.

The number of people employed in New Brunswick increased by 5,000 (+1.4%) on a year-over-year basis, driven by those aged 55 and over. By the end of 2019, nearly one-quarter (24.6%) of the province's labour force was aged 55 and over, compared with 9.3% at the end of 1999. Construction and public administration were the largest contributors to employment growth since December 2018, while accommodation and food services followed a downward trend throughout the year. Over the 12 months in 2019, the unemployment rate in the province declined by 0.9 percentage points to 7.5%.

Prince Edward Island ended the year with employment growth of 4,600 or 6.1%, the largest year-over-year increase since comparable data became available in 1976. Led by construction, employment growth was observed in several industries, but was tempered by a decline in natural resources.

The number of people employed in Newfoundland and Labrador decreased by 5,900 (-2.6%) on a year-over-year basis, with most of the decline in December. Decreases in employment over the 12 months were observed in health care and social assistance, as well as in natural resources. At 11.8%, the unemployment rate in December 2019 was little changed compared with December 2018.

Employment in British Columbia was little changed in the 12 months to December 2019, following four consecutive years of gains. The unemployment rate increased 0.4 percentage points to 4.8%, but remained the lowest among the provinces.

Overall employment in Alberta was essentially unchanged on a year-over-year basis, as fewer people were working full-time and more were working part-time. The unemployment rate increased 0.6 percentage points over the year to 7.0% in December 2019. While the number of those aged 15 to 24 in the labour force increased, employment for this age group remained relatively stable. This led the youth unemployment rate to rise 3.9 percentage points to 14.7%. Both the employment level and the unemployment rate were little changed among the core-aged population (25 to 54 years of age).

The number of employed Manitobans held steady throughout the year, with part-time gains being offset by full-time declines. The unemployment rate in the province fell 1.0 percentage point to 5.0%.

In Saskatchewan, employment was little changed over the 12 months in 2019 following an increase in 2018. Gains in the services-producing sector were offset by losses in the goods-producing sector. The unemployment rate was little changed at 5.7%.

Employment increases led by youth and older men

From December 2018 to December 2019, employment increased for both young men and women, as well as for men of core working age (25 to 54) and for older men (55 and over).

Youth employment gains totalled 115,000 (+4.8%) over the year, driven by gains in part-time work. Most of the employment growth occurred earlier in the year. The youth unemployment rate reached an all-time low of 10.0% in May before ending the year at 11.1%, the same rate as at the end of 2018.

Employment among men aged 55 and over increased by 107,000 (+4.8%) on a year-over-year basis. Their unemployment rate was 5.0% in December. Employment for women in the same age group was little changed in 2019 and their unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.6%.

Employment for core-aged men increased 67,000 or 1.1%, in line with the population growth of this demographic group. Employment for core-aged women was little changed, as gains in full-time work were offset by declines in part-time work.

Gains in services-producing sector led by Ontario

In the 12 months to December, employment growth in Canada was driven by the services-producing sector (+367,000 or +2.5%), while there was a decline in the goods-producing sector (-47,000 or -1.2%). The number of employees in both the private and public sectors increased in 2019, while self-employment was little changed.

In the services-producing sector, there were notable increases in professional, scientific and technical services (+86,000), wholesale and retail trade (+77,000), health care and social assistance (+75,000) and finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing (+75,000). Most of the growth in the services sector was in Ontario (+245,000).

Employment fell in the goods-producing sector, reflecting declines in manufacturing (-40,000), natural resources (-29,000) and utilities (-15,000) which were tempered by an increase in construction (+29,000). From December 2018 to December 2019, employment in manufacturing declined in Ontario and British Columbia, while employment in natural resources declined in five provinces, most notably Alberta and British Columbia.

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 sustainable development goals. This release will be used to help measure the following goals:

  Note to readers

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates for December are for the week of December 8 to 14.

A standard revision to the LFS data will be released on January 27, 2020. The LFS seasonally adjusted estimates will be revised back to January 2017 using updated seasonal factors.

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 the SEPH, refer to section 8 of the Guide to the Labour Force Survey (Catalogue number71-543-G).

LFS estimates at the Canada level do not include the territories.

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 update concepts related to duration of unemployment, seasonally adjusted data and standard errors have been added to table 14-10-0342-01, detailing duration of unemployment categories by sex and age group. Three new duration of unemployment categories (14 to 26 weeks, less than 27 weeks, 52 weeks or more) have been added to the table, replacing previous categories in archived table 14-10-0056-01. These new categories align with those used in the Employment Insurance program and provide better insight on duration of unemployment characteristics. Two new indicators (percentage unemployed less than 27 weeks, percentage unemployed 27 weeks or more) have also been added, as the latter can be used as an indicator of long-term unemployment.

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 February 7, 2020.


Labour Force Information (Catalogue number71-001-X) is now available for the week ending December 14.

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 also 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 province and 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 Bertrand Ouellet-Léveillé (613-864-6641; or Vincent Ferrao (613-951-4750;, Centre for Labour Market Information.

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