Payroll employment, earnings and hours, and job vacancies, December 2020
December 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 the territories.
The 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.
Preliminary monthly results from the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey (JVWS) are also now available for December. In conjunction with results from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), data from the SEPH and JVWS contribute to a fuller understanding of labour market conditions.
Payroll employment increases in December
The number of employees receiving pay or benefits from their employer—measured in the SEPH as payroll employment—rose by 44,200 (+0.3%) in December, after decreasing by 64,500 (-0.4%) in November. The largest increases were in health care and social assistance, and transportation and warehousing. December gains were tempered by declines in accommodation and food services; retail trade; and arts, entertainment and recreation. The total number of employees receiving pay or benefits from their employer was 1.1 million (-6.2%) lower than in February 2020.
The December LFS—for the week of December 6 to 12—recorded a decrease of 53,000 (-0.3%) in the number of people with a job or business, with the largest declines in accommodation and food services; "other services"; and information, culture and recreation. Employment declines were in self-employment and part-time work.
In December, public health measures introduced earlier in the fall remained in place for Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, as well as for the Halifax Regional Municipality in Nova Scotia. Prince Edward Island entered a two-week lockdown on December 7. In Quebec, in addition to the measures already implemented, non-essential retail businesses were closed effective December 25. In Ontario, restrictions already in place for some regions of southern Ontario—including the closure of non-essential retail businesses—were extended to the rest of the province effective December 26.
Payroll employment changes in December vary by province
Payroll employment increased in five provinces in December and decreased in four. Increases were in Ontario (+0.6%; +37,800), Quebec (+0.4%; +13,500), New Brunswick (+0.7%; +2,100), Newfoundland and Labrador (+0.6%; +1,100), and Prince Edward Island (+1.1%; +700). In contrast, payroll employment declined in Manitoba (-0.9%; -5,400), Alberta (-0.3%; -5,200), Saskatchewan (-0.5%; -2,400) and Nova Scotia (-0.3%; -1,400).
In December, the three Maritime provinces were closest to pre-COVID-19 employment levels, led by New Brunswick, at 0.5% below the level in February, followed by Prince Edward Island (-2.5%) and Nova Scotia (-3.9%).
Little change in average weekly earnings in December
Average weekly earnings were $1,112 in December, little changed compared with November.
On a year-over-year basis, earnings grew 6.4%, as job losses since February have been concentrated among hourly paid—and largely lower-paid—employees. In December, the number of hourly paid employees was 8.9% below its pre-COVID-19 level, compared with a gap of 2.8% for salaried employees.
Total hours worked and average hours worked per week hold steady
Total hours worked were little changed in December and 5.3% below their pre-COVID-19 February level, compared with a gap of 16.6% in May. Average hours worked per week were also little changed, at 33.6 hours.
Rise in payroll employment driven by services-producing sector
In December, payroll employment rose in the services-producing sector (+0.2%; +31,900), nearly offsetting the loss in the previous month. December gains were spread across a number of sectors but largest in health care and social assistance (+22,400), and transportation and warehousing (+10,500). At the same time, there were notable losses in accommodation and food services (-32,900); retail trade (-5,600); and arts, entertainment and recreation (-3,600).
Employment in the goods-producing sector was little changed for a second consecutive month. Prior to this, employment in the goods-producing sector had been trending up since May.
In December, payroll employment in the services-producing sector and the goods-producing sector was 6.5% and 4.6% below pre-COVID-19 levels, respectively.
Health care and social assistance sector surpasses pre-COVID-19 level of employment
The upward trend in payroll employment in health care and social assistance continued in December, with the number of payroll jobs rising by 22,400 (+1.1%) month over month. This brought employment in the sector to 0.8% above its pre-COVID-19 level.
The December rise in payroll employment in this sector was spread across ambulatory health care services (+8,600), nursing and residential care facilities (+5,800), social assistance (+4,300), and hospitals (+3,700). Most of the growth in health care and social assistance in the fourth quarter of 2020 was in the ambulatory health care services and social assistance subsectors.
Average weekly earnings in health care and social assistance were $1,029 in December, up 7.1% compared with 12 months earlier.
Recovery resumes in transportation and warehousing
Payroll employment increased in transportation and warehousing (+10,500; +1.4%) in December, after a decrease of 4,800 (-0.6%) in November. The increase in this sector coincided with a holiday season marked by online shopping as in-person shopping and in-person gatherings were limited in many provinces as a result of public health restrictions.
Within the sector, the largest payroll employment increases were concentrated in subsectors related to online shopping and mail and parcel delivery—led by postal service (+2,400; +3.2%), warehousing and storage (+1,700; +2.7%), and truck transportation (+1,700; +0.8%).
On a year-over-year basis, average weekly earnings in the transportation and warehousing sector grew 5.7% to $1,178.
Payroll employment up in professional, scientific and technical services for seventh consecutive month
Payroll employment rose for the seventh consecutive month in professional, scientific and technical services, up 6,700 (+0.7%) in December. A relatively small share of jobs in this sector—which includes computer systems design services and advertising and related services—require close physical proximity to others, limiting the impact of public health measures on the sector.
The December gain was spread across nearly all industries, with the largest increases in computer systems design and related services (+3,200) and architectural, engineering and related services (+1,700). Most of the employment growth in the sector was in Ontario.
In December, payroll employment in professional, scientific and technical services was 0.5% below the February level. Scientific research and development services were the furthest above their pre-pandemic level (+5.9%), followed by computer systems design and related services (+3.9%), while advertising, public relations, and related services were the furthest below their February level (-9.1%). Year over year, average weekly earnings in professional, scientific and technical services were up 3.6% to $1,496. This sector is among the highest paying in Canada.
Accommodation and food services, and arts, entertainment and recreation continue to decline
Payroll employment in accommodation and food services fell for the second consecutive month, down 3.4% (-32,900) in December, with declines in all provinces except Prince Edward Island. The largest losses were in full-service restaurants and limited-service eating places, traveller accommodation, and drinking places. This brought payroll employment in accommodation and food services to 30.4% below the February level.
Sales in the food services and drinking places subsector fell for a third consecutive month, down 8.0% to $4.2 billion in December. On a year-over-year basis, average weekly earnings in accommodation and food services rose 3.6% to $443.
Payroll employment in arts, entertainment and recreation also declined for a second month in a row, down 1.7% (-3,600) in December, the result of losses in other amusement and recreation industries, which include skiing facilities, as well as recreational, sports and fitness centres. Compared with February, employment in the sector was down 32.0%. On a year-over-year basis, average weekly earnings in arts, entertainment and recreation were up 17.2% to $711 in December.
Payroll employment in tourism-related industries declines for a second month in a row
After trending upward from May to September, payroll employment in tourism-related industries—a total of 27 industries mostly in transportation; arts, entertainment and recreation; and accommodation and food services—fell 6.3% (-98,700) from October to December. Many provinces have implemented targeted public health measures since September in response to a rise in COVID-19 cases. With this decline, employment in tourism-related industries was 27.3% (-549,100) below its February level, accounting for over half (51.8%) of the overall payroll employment decline.
First payroll employment decline in retail trade since May
Payroll employment in retail trade declined by 0.3% (-5,600) in December, following six consecutive months of increases. Notable declines were recorded in clothing and clothing accessories stores (-6,200), and health and personal care stores (-2,700). At the same time, employment increased in food and beverage stores (+3,200). Most of the decline in the sector was observed in Ontario. Since the closure of non-essential retail businesses occurred towards the end of December in Quebec and Ontario, many employees affected by this measure likely received pay after the shutdown and would have been counted in December payroll employment. In December, retail sales posted their largest decline (-3.4%) since the low of April driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Employment in retail trade was 4.5% below its February level in December, with the number of payroll jobs in clothing and clothing accessories stores continuing to be the furthest from its pre-pandemic level (-18.9%). Average weekly earnings in retail trade were $632, up 1.1% compared with December 2019.
Monthly results from the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey
In December, Canadian employers were actively recruiting for an estimated 478,000 positions (not seasonally adjusted) as they continued to navigate COVID-19 and the associated public health measures.
The job vacancy rate, which represents vacant positions as a proportion of all positions (vacant and occupied) was 3.0% in December, following a rate of 3.3% in November and 3.5% in October (not seasonally adjusted). While monthly and quarterly job vacancy statistics are not directly comparable because of seasonal patterns and month-to-month variations within quarters, 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.
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, 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.
Health care and social assistance sector continues to have the most vacancies
In December, the health care and social assistance sector continued to have the highest number of job vacancies (95,000), and it had a job vacancy rate of 4.4% (not seasonally adjusted), the second-highest job vacancy rate of any sector. From October to December, the monthly job vacancy rate for this sector was higher than the quarterly rates observed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rate ranged from 3.0% to 3.3% between the first quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020.
Retail trade had the second-highest number of vacancies (51,800) in December and a job vacancy rate of 2.6% (not seasonally adjusted). The number of job vacancies in this sector can vary largely based on seasonal patterns. Job vacancies in retail trade were lower in December than in November (69,700) and October (92,800), when retail businesses were recruiting more in preparation for the holiday season.
Provincially, the highest job vacancy rates were in British Columbia (3.6%) and Quebec (3.5%) (not seasonally adjusted). These two provinces have consistently had the highest job vacancy rates since monthly job vacancy statistics became available in October 2020, and they had among the highest job vacancy rates prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Job vacancy rates were lowest in Alberta (1.9%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (2.0%).
A more detailed analysis on job vacancies (by occupation and economic region, for example) will be released with the quarterly estimates (October to December 2020) of the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey on March 23, 2021.
January SEPH results—to be released on March 30—will provide detailed information on the subsectors that continue to be most affected by the reimplementation and tightening of public health measures to control the spread of COVID-19. In particular—and building on the January LFS results—these results will shed further light on the impacts of the province-wide closure of non-essential retail businesses in Quebec and Ontario at the end of December.
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 following 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
With the March 30 release of January 2021 estimates, seasonally adjusted data will be revised based on the latest seasonal factors. Seasonally adjusted estimates will be revised historically back to 2001. In addition to the new seasonal factors, historical revisions will be made for a small number of industries (four-digit level of the North American Industry Classification System [NAICS]).
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, data on average weekly hours are for hourly and salaried employees only and exclude businesses that could not be classified to a 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
Beginning with the release of October 2020 data, new preliminary monthly estimates from the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey (JVWS) are released on a monthly basis. 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 collection is done on a quarterly basis. The quarterly sample of business 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.
The JVWS also provides comprehensive quarterly data on job vacancies by industrial sector and detailed occupations for Canada and 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 because survey operations were 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
Preliminary monthly estimates are produced for job vacancies, job vacancy rates and payroll employment, using available responses from business locations sampled in the corresponding reference month. The reference period for the JVWS is the first day of the respective month.
These 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-over-month and quarter-over-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 from month to month within a quarter.
While JVWS employment is calibrated to the SEPH, SEPH payroll employment and JVWS preliminary monthly employment figures may differ because of 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 March 15, 2021.
Data on payroll employment, earnings and hours and job vacancies for January 2021 will be released on March 30, 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).