Payroll employment, earnings and hours, February 2020
COVID-19 and the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours
Today's data release from the Survey of Employment, Payroll and Hours (SEPH) is for the February reference month. By then, COVID-19 had spread to many countries, including Canada, but had not yet been declared a pandemic. Although the landscape of the Canadian labour market has shifted since February, data from the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic are important for monitoring when and where changes will occur over the following months. As a result, this release largely serves as a benchmark for measuring the effects of COVID-19 on payroll employment, earnings and hours worked in Canada.
Statistics Canada conducts a number of surveys—including the Labour Force Survey (LFS)—that together paint a complete and accurate picture of the Canadian labour market. LFS results for the reference week of March 15 to 21 were released on April 9.
Statistics Canada will continue to closely monitor the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) on the labour market. LFS results for the week of April 12 to 18 will be released on May 8. SEPH data for the March reference month are scheduled for release on May 28.
The average weekly earnings of non-farm payroll employees were $1,046 in February, little changed from January. On a year-over-year basis, earnings rose 3.7%, mostly the result of increases observed from May to October 2019.
In general, changes in average weekly earnings are the result of a number of factors, including wage growth; changes in the composition of employment by industry, occupation and level of job experience; and average hours worked per week.
In February, payroll employment declined by 35,000 compared with January. Notable declines were observed in wholesale trade, accommodation and food services, and transportation and warehousing.
Non-farm payroll employees worked an average of 33.0 hours per week in February, unchanged from January. Average hours worked increased when compared with February 2019 (32.7 hours).
To explore the most recent results of the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours in an interactive format, see Earnings and payroll employment in brief: Interactive app.
Earnings grow in 7 of the 10 largest industrial sectors
Compared with one year earlier, average weekly earnings grew in 7 of the 10 largest industrial sectors (in terms of employment) in February, led by accommodation and food services. Earnings were little changed in wholesale trade, administrative and support services, and educational services.
In accommodation and food services, payroll employees earned an average of $437 per week in February, up 7.0% on a year-over-year basis. Almost all of the growth in the sector was attributable to full-service restaurants and limited-service eating places. Most of the gains in this sector occurred in the second and third quarters of 2019.
Year over year, average weekly earnings in retail trade increased 5.5% to $626, with most of the growth occurring from April to September. Food and beverage stores, general merchandise stores, and non-store retailers were the subsectors that contributed the most to the rise in retail trade.
Compared with 12 months earlier, average weekly earnings in construction increased 5.2% to $1,325. This growth was primarily attributable to the specialty trade contractors subsector.
In February, earnings increased by roughly 3% in four sectors: health care and social assistance (+3.3% to $952); public administration (+3.2% to $1,364); professional, scientific and technical services (+3.0% to $1,462); and manufacturing (+2.6% to $1,154).
Earnings up in all provinces
Compared with one year earlier, average weekly earnings increased in all provinces in February. The sharpest growth was in British Columbia.
Year over year, average weekly earnings in British Columbia rose 4.8% to $1,021 in February. The health care and social assistance sector was the largest contributor to this increase.
Earnings in Prince Edward Island grew 4.6% on a year-over-year basis to $886, with the increase spread across many sectors.
Payroll employees in Nova Scotia earned an average of $927 per week in February, up 4.5% on a year-over-year basis. The health care and social assistance sector and the retail trade sector contributed the most to this increase. Earnings in Nova Scotia have been trending upward since mid-2018.
In New Brunswick, earnings rose 4.2% year over year to $960. This increase was spread across several sectors.
In Quebec, payroll employees earned an average of $988 per week in February, up 4.2% from 12 months earlier. This growth was spread across sectors, led by manufacturing and by health care and social assistance.
Earnings also increased in Alberta (+3.6% to $1,182), Ontario (+3.4% to $1,064), Saskatchewan (+2.9% to $1,054), Newfoundland and Labrador (+2.5% to $1,065), and Manitoba (+1.0% to $961).
Payroll employment declines notably in February
From January to February, the number of payroll employees declined by 35,000, or 0.2%, the fastest decline since June 2015. Previously, payroll employment had been relatively stable since July 2019.
In February, the largest month-to-month decline was observed in wholesale trade (-5,500). This may reflect shortages of raw materials and finished products resulting from the impacts of COVID-19 in China in February. In addition, a series of railway blockades in February resulted in supply chain disruptions and backlogs for a number of companies. (See the latest release of wholesale trade data.)
Employment declined in February in accommodation and food services (-5,300), driven by decreases in the traveller accommodation and special food services industries.
A decline was also observed in transportation and warehousing (-5,300), mostly attributable to decreases in truck transportation and in couriers and messengers.
Employment up year over year in health care and social assistance
Year over year, the number of payroll employees increased by 193,800 (+1.2%) in February. Employment grew the most in health care and social assistance (+55,100, or +2.7%); professional, scientific and technical services (+35,000, or +3.7%); and educational services (+33,300, or +2.5%). In contrast, there was a decline in payroll employment in manufacturing (-21,600, or -1.4%).
Payroll employment rose in eight provinces, led by Ontario (+79,000, or +1.2%) and Quebec (+73,300, or +2.0%), while there was a decline in Alberta (-12,300, or -0.6%). Employment was little changed in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Sustainable development goals
On January 1, 2016, the world officially began implementing 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 Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours is an example of how Statistics Canada supports the reporting on the global sustainable development goals. This release will be used to measure the following goals:
Note to readers
The key objective of the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH) is to provide a monthly portrait of the level of earnings, employment and hours worked, by detailed industry, at the national, provincial and territorial levels.
SEPH estimates are produced by integrating information from three sources: a census of approximately 1 million payroll deduction records provided by the Canada Revenue Agency; the Business Payrolls Survey, which collects data from a sample of 15,000 establishments; and administrative records of federal, provincial and territorial public administration employment provided by these levels of government.
Estimates of average weekly earnings and hours worked are based on a sample and are therefore subject to sampling variability. This analysis focuses on differences between estimates that are statistically significant at the 68% confidence level. Payroll employment estimates are based on a census of administrative records and are not subject to sampling variability.
With each release of SEPH data, data for the preceding month are revised. Users are encouraged to use the most up-to-date data available for each month.
Statistics Canada also produces employment estimates from its Labour Force Survey (LFS). The LFS is a monthly household survey, the main objective of which is to divide the working-age population into three mutually exclusive groups: the employed (including the self-employed), the unemployed and those not in the labour force. This survey is the official source for the unemployment rate, and it collects data on the sociodemographic characteristics of all those in the labour market.
As a result of conceptual and methodological differences, estimates of changes from the SEPH and LFS differ from time to time. However, the trends in the data are quite similar. For a more in-depth discussion of the conceptual differences between employment measures from the LFS and SEPH, refer to Section 8 of the Guide to the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (). 72-203-G
Unless otherwise stated, this release presents seasonally adjusted data, which facilitate comparisons by removing the effects of seasonal variations. For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonally adjusted data – Frequently asked questions.
Non-farm payroll employment data are for all hourly and salaried employees, as well as for the "other employees" category, which includes piece-rate and commission-only employees.
Unless otherwise specified, average weekly hours data are for hourly and salaried employees only and exclude businesses that could not be classified to a North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code.
All earnings data include overtime and exclude businesses that could not be classified to a NAICS code. Earnings data are based on gross taxable payroll before source deductions. Average weekly earnings are derived by dividing total weekly earnings by the number of employees.
Real-time data tables
Real-time tables 14-10-0357-01, 14-10-0358-01, 14-10-0331-01 and 14-10-0332-01 will be updated on May 11.
Data on payroll employment, earnings and hours for March will be released on May 28.
More information about the concepts and use of the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours is available in the Guide to the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (72-203-G).
The product "Earnings and payroll employment in brief: Interactive app" (14200001) is now available. This interactive data visualization application provides a comprehensive picture of the Canadian labour market using the most recent data from the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours. The estimates are seasonally adjusted and available by province and largest industrial sector. Historical estimates going back 10 years are also included. The interactive application allows users to quickly and easily explore and personalize the information presented. Combine multiple provinces and industrial sectors to create your own labour market domains of interest.
For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca).
To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Bertrand Ouellet-Léveillé (613-864-6641; email@example.com), Centre for Labour Market Information.