Payroll employment, earnings and hours, and job vacancies, October 2020
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October data are now available from the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH), which provides monthly information on payroll employment, earnings and hours worked in Canada, the provinces and territories.
By mid-October, several provinces had tightened public health measures in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Unlike the widespread economic shutdown implemented in March and April, these measures were targeted at businesses where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is greater, including indoor restaurants and bars and recreational facilities.
SEPH provides an account of payroll employment, that is, the number of employees receiving pay or benefits (employment income) during a given month. The survey excludes the self-employed, owners and partners of unincorporated businesses and professional practices, and employees in the agricultural sector.
For the first time, monthly results from the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey (JVWS) are also now available. Preliminary estimates for October provide the first look at job vacancy estimates since the onset of the COVID-19 economic shutdown.
In conjunction with results from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), data from SEPH and JVWS contribute to a fuller understanding of labour market conditions.
Payroll employment continues to rise in October
The number of employees receiving pay or benefits from their employer—measured in SEPH as payroll employment—continued to rise in October, up by 183,700 (+1.2%) from the previous month. This followed an increase of 2.1 million payroll jobs from June to September, and brought the total payroll employment change to a decline of a little over 1.0 million (-6.1%) relative to its February level.
Total employment—as measured by the LFS—increased by 84,000 (+0.5%) in October, bringing employment to within 636,000 (-3.3%) of the February level.
Payroll employment increases in most provinces
Payroll employment increased in nine provinces in October, led by Prince Edward Island (+3.1%; +2,000), Nova Scotia (+2.0%; +8,000), British Columbia (+1.6%; +34,000) and Ontario (+1.5%; 88,800). Employment was little changed in New Brunswick.
As first reported in the October LFS, the pace of employment growth slowed in Ontario and Quebec, consistent with the re-introduction of COVID-19 public health measures in many regions of central Canada.
Hourly paid employees narrow the gap but remain further than salaried employees from pre-COVID employment level
In October, payroll employment growth continued to be fuelled by hourly paid employees (+1.4%; +124,500). Following these gains, the number of hourly paid employees was 8.1% below its pre-COVID level, compared with 4.1% below the pre-COVID level for salaried employees. In May, the number of hourly paid employees was 25.5% below its pre-COVID level, compared with 7.8% below the pre-COVID level for salaried employees.
Payroll employment in small businesses increases in the third quarter
Employment by enterprise size helps shed light on the varying labour market impacts of COVID-19. In the second quarter of 2020 (April to June), which encompassed the initial COVID-19 economic shutdown and the closure of non-essential businesses, payroll employment in small businesses (enterprises with fewer than 100 employees) fell to 22.1% below the level from one year earlier. In the same time frame, payroll employment for enterprises with 100 employees or more fell 13.1%.
In the third quarter of 2020 (July to September), this gap closed somewhat. Payroll employment was 10.5% below the level from one year earlier in small businesses, compared with a year-over-year decline of 8.1% for enterprises with 100 employees or more.
Total hours worked rise, while average hours worked hold steady
Total hours worked grew at a slower rate in October, up 0.3%, compared with 2.0% growth in September. This growth brought total hours worked to 5.4% below its pre-COVID February level, compared with a gap of 16.6% in May.
Average hours worked per week were little changed in October at 33.5 hours, but they were higher than in February, when payroll employees worked an average of 33.0 hours per week.
Average weekly earnings little changed in October
Average weekly earnings were $1,106 in October, little changed from the previous month. Year over year, earnings rose 5.9%, as job losses throughout the COVID-19 economic shutdown were concentrated among lower-paid employees.
Payroll employment growth slows in both the services-producing and the goods-producing sectors
In October, payroll employment continued to recover in both the services-producing (+1.3%; +162,300) and the goods-producing (+0.7%; +20,400) sectors, but at a slower pace compared with the previous month. In services, gains were widespread, with the largest monthly increases in retail trade (+27,800), educational services (+18,200) and health care and social assistance (+17,200). In the goods-producing sector, employment growth paused in manufacturing, while it continued in construction (+17,600), accounting for almost all of the increase.
Payroll employment in the services-producing sector and the goods-producing sector was 6.5% and 4.9% below the pre-COVID level respectively in October. As the Canadian economy is facing the second wave of COVID-19 and renewed public-health measures, some sectors face a longer path to recovery than others. In October, arts, entertainment and recreation as well as accommodation and food services continued to be the farthest from their pre-COVID employment levels.
Employment gains continue in arts, entertainment and recreation, but vary by province
Payroll employment in arts, entertainment and recreation continued to grow in October (+9,200; +4.2%), up for a fifth consecutive month. However, it remained farther from recovery than all other industries, at 28.2% below its pre-COVID level.
While many provinces showed increases in payroll employment in this sector, there was a notable decline in Quebec (-3.4%; -1,700). The health authorities in Quebec announced that as of October 1, entertainment venues such as casinos, cinemas, museums, and theatres would be closed in the province's COVID-19 red zones.
Average weekly earnings in arts, entertainment and recreation were $715 in October, up 13.3% from 12 months earlier.
Employment in accommodation and food services increases in all provinces but Quebec
In accommodation and food services, payroll employment rose for a fifth consecutive month, up 1.2% (+11,800) in October. All provinces recorded gains, except Quebec, where employment in this sector declined by 2.9% (-6,200). The decrease likely reflects the impact of new public health measures that were in place as of October, requiring the closure of all restaurants and bars (with the exception of takeout and delivery) in the province's COVID-19 red zones, which included large metropolitan areas such as Montréal and Québec City. In Ontario, growth in payroll employment in accommodation and food services slowed to 2.0%, down from 6.9% in September, as the province implemented targeted geographical restrictions on bars and restaurants in October.
Month-over-month employment gains in accommodation and food services were strongest in Prince Edward Island (+9.1%), Nova Scotia (+4.1%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (+3.0%). Nationally, average weekly earnings in this sector were $427 in October, little changed from 12 months earlier.
Real estate and rental and leasing, "other services" and administrative and support services continue slow recovery
Payroll employment increased for a fifth consecutive month in real estate and rental and leasing in October (+1.4%; +3,400), bringing the employment level in the sector to 13.4% below the pre-COVID level, one of the sectors furthest from full recovery. The recovery has been slow but steady since May, when employment was 23.6% below the February level.
Within the sector, payroll employment in rental and leasing services—which comprise establishments primarily engaged in renting or leasing tangible goods such as automobiles, computers and industrial machinery—dropped to 34.0% below the pre-COVID level in May, and remained the subsector furthest from recovery in October (-20.0%). In contrast, payroll employment in real estate dropped to 20.4% below the pre-COVID level in May, and was 11.6% below the pre-COVID level in October.
Average weekly earnings in real estate and rental and leasing were $1,153 in October, up 11.7% from 12 months earlier.
In October, payroll employment in the "other services" sector grew by 1.4% (+6,900), a slower pace of growth compared with an average of 6.9% from June to September. Despite these gains, payroll employment in the 'other services' sector was 11.4% (-63,500) lower than its February level, with the largest declines in the civic and social organizations; personal care services; and automotive repair and maintenance industries. Average weekly earnings in this sector were up 6.2% year over year to $929 in October.
Payroll employment in the administrative and support services sector continued on an upward trend, increasing for a fifth consecutive month in October (+1.4%; +10,100). Despite the recent increases, employment in this sector was 9.0% below its February level, led by decreases in the administrative and support service subsector, which provides support to the day-to-day operations of other organizations. Compared with February, the largest percentage declines were in travel arrangement and reservation services (-29.7%), other support services (-13.7%) and employment services (-13.5%). Average weekly earnings in the sector were $914 in October, up 8.2% compared with 12 months earlier.
Payroll employment continues to increase in retail trade
In October, payroll employment in retail trade increased for the fifth consecutive month, up by 1.5% (+27,800). While this sector moved closer to its pre-COVID level (-4.7%; -94,800), the degree of employment recovery was uneven across the subsectors. The number of payroll jobs in general merchandise stores, such as department stores, was 5.6% above the pre-COVID level in October, while payroll employment was little changed for non-store retailers. In contrast, employment was 16.4% below its pre-COVID level in clothing and clothing accessories stores and 12.5% below in electronics and appliance stores.
Average weekly earnings in retail trade increased by 2.9% on a year-over-year basis to $654 in October.
Payroll employment in clothing and clothing accessories stores furthest from February levels within the retail trade sector
Payroll employment gains continue at a slower pace in construction
Payroll employment in construction rose for a sixth consecutive month in October, up by 17,600 (+1.8%) compared with September. Though this was the smallest month-over-month increase for this sector since the spring, it brought payroll employment to 4.5% below its February level.
The number of payroll jobs in construction rose in all subsectors and industries in October, with the largest increase among specialty trade contractors (+10,700; +1.8%). Within this subsector, most of the increase was among building equipment contractors and building finishing contractors.
Average weekly earnings in construction were $1,331 in October, up 3.6% compared with 12 months earlier. As reported in the investment in building construction release, investment rose for a sixth consecutive month in October in residential construction (+0.7%), while it declined for a fourth consecutive month in non-residential construction (-3.2%).
Payroll employment growth stalls in manufacturing
Following four months of increases, payroll employment in manufacturing was little changed in October, and was 4.9% below the February level. At its lowest point in May, payroll employment in manufacturing was 15.9% below its February level.
In October, employment increases among several manufacturing subsectors were offset primarily by a decline in transportation equipment manufacturing (-4,400; -2.3%). The decline in this subsector was mostly in aerospace product and parts manufacturing and motor vehicle manufacturing. As reported in the Monthly Survey of Manufacturing release, the capacity utilization rate in the transportation equipment industry was down 4.4 percentage points in October (not seasonally adjusted), mainly due to lower production in the aerospace industry. The capacity utilization rate for the total manufacturing sector decreased from 78.4% in September to 77.8% in October.
Average weekly earnings in the manufacturing sector were little changed in October at $1,158.
Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction furthest from recovery among goods-producing sectors
Payroll employment in mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction was little changed in October, and was further from recovery (-8.3%) than any other goods-producing sector. The mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction sector has been hit particularly hard in Alberta, where the October employment level for this sector was 14.9% lower than in February. Data for this sector in future months may shed light on the impact of Alberta ending its limits on oil production in December (formerly 3.81 million barrels per day), allowing producers to utilize available pipeline capacity and increase employment.
Payroll employment in mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction has also faced challenges in Newfoundland and Labrador through the pandemic, with the number of payroll jobs falling 12.9% from February to May. In October, employment for this sector in the province was 10.4% below the pre-COVID-19 level.
Average weekly earnings in mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction remained the highest among all sectors in October, at $1,981. However, this sector was the lone sector to see a notable year-over-year decrease in average weekly earnings (-10.0%).
First look at job vacancies since the onset of the economic shutdown
As businesses continued to navigate public health requirements, Canadian employers were actively recruiting for an estimated 551,900 positions in October (not seasonally adjusted).
The job vacancy rate, which represents vacant positions as a proportion of all positions, was 3.5% in October (not seasonally adjusted). Monthly and quarterly job vacancy statistics are not directly comparable due to seasonal patterns and month-to-month variation within quarters. As a point of comparison, however, prior to the COVID-19 economic shutdown, the quarterly job vacancy rate ranged from 3.0% to 3.5% between the first quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020 (not seasonally adjusted).
The job vacancy rate is a key measure of unmet labour demand and, in conjunction with other indicators such as payroll employment and the unemployment rate, it provides valuable insight into the labour market. For example, a high job vacancy rate could represent either an increased pace of recruiting, or difficulty on the part of employers in finding or retaining suitable candidates.
In October, the job vacancy rate was highest in British Columbia (4.2%) and Quebec (4.0%) and lowest in Newfoundland and Labrador (2.3%), Saskatchewan (2.7%) and Alberta (2.8%) (not seasonally adjusted). The remaining provinces all posted job vacancy rates between 3.0% and 3.4%.
By sector, retail trade had the highest number of job vacancies (92,800) in October and a job vacancy rate of 4.7% (not seasonally adjusted), one of the highest job vacancy rates of any sector.
Health care and social assistance had the second-highest number of job vacancies (80,700). The job vacancy rate in this sector was 3.8% in October, which may reflect Canada's continuing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. From the first quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020, the job vacancy rate in this sector ranged from 3.0% to 3.3%. Together, retail trade and health care and social assistance—which are the two largest sectors in Canada in terms of payroll employment—accounted for more than 30% of all job vacancies in October.
Information on job vacancies will continue to be incorporated in future monthly releases of payroll employment results. A more detailed analysis will be released with the quarterly estimates of the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey in March 2021.
November LFS results—reflecting labour market conditions as of the week of November 8 to 14—showed that the pace of employment recovery continued to slow in specific sectors as several provinces tightened public health measures in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases. November 2020 SEPH results—to be released on January 28, 2021—will shed further light on the subsectors and industries most impacted by the re-implementation and tightening of public health restrictions.
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
Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH)
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 occasionally. However, the trends in the data are 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 because the effects of seasonal variations are removed. 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, and 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.
Job Vacancy and Wage Survey
October 2020 marks the first release of preliminary monthly estimates from the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey (JVWS). These estimates provide more timely information on the number of job vacancies and the job vacancy rate by province and by industrial sector.
The JVWS also provides comprehensive quarterly data on job vacancies by industrial sector and detailed occupations for Canada, the provinces, territories and economic regions, offered hourly wage and job vacancy characteristics. Quarterly data for the second and third quarters of 2020 are unavailable due to survey operations being temporarily suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic. More information about the concepts and use of data from the JVWS is available in the Guide to the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey (). 75-514-G
The JVWS is a quarterly survey. The quarterly sample of locations is allocated to the three collection months of the quarter, approximately balanced by province and by industrial sector across each of the three months. This allows for the production of both quarterly and monthly estimates.
Preliminary monthly estimates are produced for payroll employment, job vacancies, and job vacancy rate, using available responses from business locations sampled in the corresponding reference month. These estimates are released monthly, coinciding with the monthly Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH) release for the corresponding month. The reference period for JVWS is the first day of the respective month.
Preliminary monthly estimates are revised and finalized when the corresponding quarterly estimates are released or shortly thereafter. Users are encouraged to use the most up-to-date data available for each month.
JVWS estimates are not seasonally adjusted. Therefore, month-to-month and quarter-to-quarter comparisons should be interpreted with caution as they may reflect seasonal movements. In addition, year-over-year comparisons between estimates of different frequencies (month vs quarter) should be interpreted with caution as job vacancy statistics can vary month to month within a quarter.
While JVWS employment is calibrated to SEPH, SEPH payroll employment and JVWS preliminary monthly employment figures may differ due to calibration grouping and differences in scope and reference period.
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 January 11, 2021.
Data on payroll employment, earnings and hours and job vacancies for November 2020 will be released on January 28, 2021.
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, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca).
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