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Labour Force Survey, February 2021

Released: 2021-03-12

February Labour Force Survey (LFS) data reflect labour market conditions during the week of February 14 to 20.

In early February, public health restrictions put in place in late December were eased in many provinces. This allowed for the re-opening of many non-essential businesses, cultural and recreational facilities, and some in-person dining. However, capacity limits and other public health requirements, which varied across jurisdictions, remained in place.

Restrictions were eased to varying degrees in Quebec, Alberta, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia on February 8, although a curfew remained in effect in Quebec. In Ontario, previous requirements were lifted for many regions on February 10 and 15, while the Toronto, Peel, York and North Bay Parry Sound health regions remained under stay-at-home orders through the reference week. Various measures were eased in Manitoba on February 12.

In contrast, Newfoundland and Labrador re-introduced a lockdown on February 12, requiring the widespread closure of non-essential businesses and services.

Highlights

Employment rebounds

Employment increased by 259,000 (+1.4%) in February, after falling by 266,000 over the previous two months.

Both part-time (+171,000; +5.4%) and full-time (+88,000; +0.6%) work increased.

Among those working part time (less than 30 hours per week) in February, almost one-quarter (23.8%) wanted a full-time job, up from less than one-fifth (18.5%) 12 months earlier.

The number of self-employed workers was unchanged for the second consecutive month and was down 7.4% (-213,000) compared with 12 months earlier.

Gains included an increase of 226,000 (+1.9%) among private-sector employees.

Among workers who worked at least half their usual hours in February, the number working at locations other than home increased by 600,000 as schools and other workplaces reopened in several provinces.

Compared with 12 months earlier, there were 599,000 (-3.1%) fewer people employed, and 406,000 (+50.0%) more people working less than half of their usual hours.

In February, total hours worked increased by 1.4%, driven mostly by gains in wholesale and retail trade.

Unemployment rate falls to lowest level since March 2020

The unemployment rate fell 1.2 percentage points to 8.2% in February, the lowest rate since March 2020.

The number of long-term unemployed—people who had been looking for work or been on temporary layoff for 27 weeks or more—fell by 49,000 (-9.7%) from a record high of 512,000 in January.

The labour underutilization rate fell 1.8 percentage points to 16.6%—the lowest level since February 2020.

Employment rebounds in industries most affected by January losses

The number of people working in retail trade increased by 122,000 (+6.1%) in February as restrictions on non-essential stores were lifted in many regions.

Employment in the accommodation and food services industry rose by 65,000 (+7.8%), driven primarily by Ontario and Alberta.

After falling steadily from September 2020 to January 2021, the number of people working in the information, culture, and recreation industry was little changed in February.

February employment increases were concentrated in jobs paying $17.50 per hour or less, reflecting monthly growth in industries with a high proportion of low-paying jobs.

Employment rebounds in Quebec and Ontario

Employment increased in both Quebec (+113,000; +2.7%) and Ontario (+100,000; +1.4%), coinciding with the easing of public health restrictions in most areas of both provinces.

Employment also increased in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba, while it declined in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Youth employment recovers losses from recent months

Employment among youth aged 15 to 24 rose by 100,000 (+4.5%) in February, with increases in both full-time (+36,000; +2.9%) and part-time (+64,000; +6.5%) work.

Year-over-year employment losses among young women (-181,000; -14.1%) were nearly double those seen among young men (-96,000; -7.3%).

The unemployment rate for youth fell 2.6 percentage points to 17.1% in February, higher than the same month a year earlier (10.4%).

Employment rose by 134,000 (+1.1%) among people aged 25 to 54 in February, restoring much of the job losses that occurred in January, particularly among women working part time.

The unemployment rate for core-aged women fell 1.3 percentage points in February to 6.5%, returning to the low observed in December. The unemployment rate for core-aged men fell 0.6 percentage points to 6.9%, the lowest rate since March 2020.

Employment among people aged 55 and older rose by 25,000 (+0.6%) in February, following four months with little growth.

Employment rebounds and the unemployment rate falls

Employment increased by 259,000 (+1.4%) in February, after falling by 266,000 over the previous two months. The unemployment rate fell 1.2 percentage points to 8.2% in February, the lowest rate since March 2020. The labour underutilization rate fell to 16.6%, the lowest level since February 2020.

Total hours worked increased by 1.4%, driven by gains in wholesale and retail trade.

Employment gains in February were concentrated in Quebec and Ontario. Most of the employment gains in these provinces reflected a rebound in industries—particularly retail trade and accommodation and food services—where public health measures were strengthened in December and then eased prior to the February LFS reference week.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Employment returns to November level
Employment returns to November level

February marked 12 months of unprecedented changes in the Canadian labour market, resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Compared with 12 months earlier, there were 599,000 (-3.1%) fewer people employed in February, and 406,000 (+50.0%) more people working less than half of their usual hours. The number of workers affected by the COVID-19 economic shutdown peaked at 5.5 million in April 2020, including a drop in employment of 3.0 million and an increase in COVID-related absences from work of 2.5 million.

Pandemic-related changes to the labour market have disproportionately affected young women, particularly teenagers. Compared with February 2020, employment losses among women aged 15 to 24 (-181,000; -14.1%) accounted for nearly one-third (30.2%) of the decline in total employment.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Employment losses concentrated among young women
Employment losses concentrated among young women

Employment increases in both part-time and full-time work

Both part-time (+171,000; +5.4%) and full-time work (+88,000; +0.6%) increased in February. The increase in part-time work mostly reflected a rebound in the retail trade, and accommodation and food services industries, as many retail stores and restaurants reopened in February following closures mandated at the end of December. There were also gains in full-time work, which reflect relatively steady growth in a broader range of industries. Part-time employment was 7.4% (-264,000) lower than in February 2020, while full-time work was down 2.2% (-335,000).

Among those working part time (less than 30 hours per week) in February, almost one-quarter (23.8%) wanted a full-time job, up from less than one-fifth (18.5%) 12 months earlier. The rate of involuntary part-time employment was higher—and increased more on a year-over-year basis—among men (26.5%; +6.4 percentage points) than among women (22.2%; +4.5 percentage points).

Chart 3  Chart 3: Part-time employment rebounds after falling in December and January
Part-time employment rebounds after falling in December and January

Self-employment continues to show little sign of recovery

The number of self-employed workers was unchanged for the second consecutive month in February and was down 7.4% (-213,000) compared with 12 months earlier. Year-over-year declines were widespread across industries, including business, building and other support services; health care and social assistance; and construction (not seasonally adjusted).

The number of private sector employees rebounds, while growth in public sector employment continues

Employment gains in February included an increase of 226,000 (+1.9%) among private-sector employees. This offset a similarly sized decline in January, as employment in the retail trade, and accommodation and food services industries recovered in response to the easing of public health restrictions in many jurisdictions. Compared with 12 months earlier, the number of private sector employees was down 4.1% (-501,000).

Public sector employment rose by 46,000 (+1.1%) in February, continuing an upward trend that began with the initial recovery in the spring of 2020. On a year-over-year basis, public sector employment was up 2.9% (+115,000), primarily driven by more employees working in educational services and health care and social assistance.

Number of Canadians working at locations other than home increases by 600,000

Among workers who worked at least half of their usual hours in February, the number who worked at locations other than home increased by 600,000 as schools and other workplaces reopened in several provinces.

While the number of Canadians working from home declined by 200,000 in February, working from home continues to be an important adaptation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 5.2 million Canadians working from home in February 2021, more than half (3.1 million) were doing so temporarily in response to COVID-19.

Growth in total hours worked continues

Along with employment, total hours worked across all industries are a core indicator of the state of the labour market. Total hours worked can be influenced by a number of factors, such as employment growth, compositional change in employment by industry and occupation, and changes in absences from work.

In February, total hours worked increased by 1.4%, driven by gains in wholesale and retail trade.

After reaching a low in April, total hours worked increased steadily before flattening in December. Despite the resumption of growth in January and February, total hours worked were down 3.2% compared with pre-COVID levels in February 2020. Over this period, the self-employed lost more hours (-11.8%) than employees (-1.6%).

The unemployment rate falls to lowest level since March 2020 

The national unemployment rate fell 1.2 percentage points to 8.2% in February, the lowest rate since March 2020. The monthly decline was one of the sharpest on record, comparable only with those seen earlier in the recovery last summer.

There was a net drop of 234,000 (-12.3%) in the number of unemployed people in February. Of the 845,000 people who left unemployment from January to February, 6 in 10 (59.3%) became employed. Approximately 610,000 people joined the ranks of the unemployed, including 61.8% who had been out of the labour force in January.

Reflecting a rebound in employment following two months of declines, the number of people on temporary layoff fell by 103,000 (-28.6%) in February. The number of long-term unemployed—those who had been looking for work or been on temporary layoff for 27 weeks or more—fell by 49,000 (-9.7%) from a record high of 512,000 in January.

The number of people who wanted a job but were not actively looking for one, and therefore did not meet the definition of unemployed, decreased by 33,000 (-5.7%) in February. Had people in this group been included in the count of the unemployed, the adjusted unemployment rate in February would have been 10.7% (down 1.3 percentage points from January).

Chart 4  Chart 4: Unemployment rate falls sharply in February
Unemployment rate falls sharply in February

Unemployment rate returns to December levels among Southeast Asian, Latin American and Black Canadians

After increasing markedly from December to January, the unemployment rate of Southeast Asian, Latin American and Black Canadians aged 15 to 69 dropped back to December levels in February (not seasonally adjusted). Nevertheless, the overall unemployment rate for population groups designated as visible minorities (9.8%) remained higher than among Canadians who are not Indigenous or a visible minority (8.0%).

Labour market underutilization rate at lowest level since the beginning of pandemic

The labour underutilization rate reflects the proportion of people in the potential labour force who are: unemployed; want a job but have not looked for one; or are employed but working less than half of their usual hours for reasons likely related to COVID-19. When used in combination with the unemployment rate, the labour underutilization rate sheds light on the extent to which the economy, as a result of COVID-19, is not generating employment for those who want to work and are available to do so.

In February 2021, the labour underutilization rate fell 1.8 percentage points to 16.6%—the lowest level since February 2020. All components of labour underutilization decreased, including job searchers (-131,000; -8.5%); those on temporary layoff or with arrangements to start a job in the near future (-103,000; -28.6%); those who wanted a job but did not look for one (-33,000; -5.7%); and those who were employed but worked less than half of their usual hours (-123,000; -9.2%).

Labour force participation holds steady

The labour force participation rate—defined as the percentage of the population aged 15 and older who are employed or unemployed—was unchanged in February at 64.7%. After reaching a low point (60.0%) in April 2020, the participation rate recovered relatively quickly in the spring and summer of 2020, as many people returned to work, searched for work or were on temporary layoff. Compared with the pre-pandemic level of February 2020, the participation rate was down 0.8 percentage points in February 2021, and the labour force had shrunk by 80,000 (-0.4%). The fact that the size of the labour force was relatively close to pre-pandemic levels indicates that many people had either returned to employment or were actively looking for work.

The participation rate continued to lag pre-COVID levels, primarily among youth aged 15 to 24 (-2.0 percentage points), particularly young women (-2.8 percentage points). Among both men and women aged 25 to 54, participation had regained its pre-pandemic rate by September 2020 and remained stable in February 2021.

Employment rebounds in industries most affected by January losses

As public health restrictions eased in several provinces in February, employment in accommodation and food services (+7.8%) returned to its December level, while the number of people working in retail trade increased by 6.1% to recover more than three-quarters of January losses. After several months of decline, employment was little changed in information, culture and recreation in February.

Employment was also virtually unchanged in the goods-producing sector in February.

Chart 5  Chart 5: Recovery to pre-COVID employment levels varies across industries
Recovery to pre-COVID employment levels varies across industries

Employment rebounds in retail trade after losses in January

The number of people working in retail trade increased by 122,000 (+6.1%) in February as restrictions on non-essential stores were lifted in many regions. The gain represents a recovery of more than three-quarters (76.4%) of the employment losses in January. With the February increase, employment in the industry was 5.4% below its pre-COVID levels.

In February 2021, there were 111,000 fewer women working in retail trade than 12 months earlier, with declines in all three major age groups; women aged 25 to 54 accounted for over 40% of the drop. In contrast, employment in the sector was little changed among men (not seasonally adjusted). This contrast is partly the result of gender differences in the occupational profile of employment in retail trade. In February 2020, women were more concentrated in some occupations—such as sales representatives and sales support workers—, which are public-facing and therefore more likely to be affected by public health measures.

Employment in accommodation and food services back to December 2020 level

Employment in the accommodation and food services industry rose by 65,000 (+7.8%) in February. This increase was driven primarily by Ontario and Alberta, coinciding with the lifting of some public health restrictions, including the re-opening of in-person dining, in Alberta and some regions of Ontario.

Despite these gains, the accommodation and food services industry remains the furthest behind pre-COVID levels of employment. The number of people working in the industry was approximately one-quarter lower (-26.1%) in February 2021 than 12 months earlier. Employment declines over this period were particularly concentrated among food and beverage servers (-117,000, not seasonally adjusted), with cashiers a distant second (-34,000).

According to data from the Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, nearly one-quarter (24.9%) of businesses in accommodation and food services reported in January and early February that they could continue to operate at their current level of revenue and expenditures for less than 12 months before having to consider closure or bankruptcy.

Employment in "other services" up for the first time since September

Employment in the "other services" industry rose by 3.8% (+28,000) in February, the first increase since September 2020. This industry includes personal care services, such as hairdressers, which were permitted to re-open in several jurisdictions in early February. Despite this monthly increase, employment in February was 6.0% (-49,000) lower than one year earlier.

Employment in information, culture, and recreation stable in February but still slow to recover

After falling steadily from September 2020 to January 2021, the number of people working in the information, culture, and recreation industry was little changed in February. While restrictions on some fitness and recreation activities were eased in February, the industry remained constrained by ongoing bans on large gatherings. Employment was 15.1% (-117,000) below pre-COVID levels in February, with occupations such as program leaders and instructors in recreation, sports and fitness (-33,000, not seasonally adjusted) being among the hardest hit. Women accounted for three-quarters (25,000) of the decline in this occupational group.

Gains in educational services push employment in this industry above pre-COVID levels

Employment in educational services increased by 2.1% (+29,000) in February. After hovering around pre-COVID levels since September, employment rose to a level 3.7% (+51,000) higher than a year earlier. Most of the year-over-year employment gain occurred in Quebec. At the national level, employment increases in the industry were driven by professional occupations in education, including teachers (not seasonally adjusted).

Employment in professional scientific, and technical services higher than a year earlier

While employment was little changed in professional, technical, and scientific services in February, the number of people working in the industry was 5.6% higher than a year earlier (+86,000), the largest year-over-year increase across all industries. Nearly all of the year-over-year rise was attributable to Ontario and British Columbia. The professional, scientific, and technical services industry includes many businesses that can operate remotely, such as legal, accounting, and advertising services, as well as information technology companies that have supported the transition to working from home.

Following relatively modest job losses from February to June 2020, employment in professional, scientific, and technical services followed an upward trend from July to December. According to monthly data from the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey for December 2020, the job vacancy rate in the industry was higher than the Canadian average (3.6% compared with 3.0%, not seasonally adjusted).

Compared with February 2020, there has been a marked rise in the number of people in this industry working in computer and information systems occupations (+75,000, not seasonally adjusted), including both professional and technical occupations. Year-over-year gains were driven by men (+65,000) as employment was little changed among women.

February increases concentrated in lower-paying jobs, reflecting rebounds in public-facing industries

Immediately before the pandemic in February 2020, about one-quarter of all employees in Canada earned $17.50 per hour or less, while one-quarter earned more than $36.00 per hour. These wage brackets are helpful in understanding the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on lower-paid and higher-paid workers.

Chart 6  Chart 6: Employment among employees earning the lowest wages far behind in the recovery
Employment among employees earning the lowest wages far behind in the recovery

The number of employees making $17.50 per hour or less increased by 203,000 in February (not seasonally adjusted). This partly offset a decline of 321,000 in January and coincided with a February rebound in employment in the retail trade, and accommodation and food services industries, where lower wages are more prevalent.

There were 791,000 (-19.7%) fewer employees in this wage bracket in February 2021 than 12 months earlier. Nearly two-thirds (63.6%) of the losses were among women, with similar declines in all age groups. Young men were far less affected by the decline (-82,000; -11.4%) than were young women (-178,000; -20.9%) (not seasonally adjusted).

In contrast, there were 410,000 (+10.3%) more employees making more than $36.00 per hour in February compared with one year earlier (not seasonally adjusted). The number of people in this highest-earning wage bracket followed an upward trend during the summer and early fall of 2020 before flattening in recent months, and was little changed in February (not seasonally adjusted).

Employment rebounds in Quebec and Ontario

Employment increased in both Quebec (+113,000; +2.7%) and Ontario (+100,000; +1.4%) in February, coinciding with the easing of public health restrictions in most areas of both provinces. Employment also rose in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba, while it declined in Newfoundland and Labrador. All other provinces posted little employment change in the month.

For further information on key province-level and industry-level labour market indicators, see "Labour Force Survey in brief: Interactive app."

In Quebec, employment rose by 113,000 (+2.7%) in February, the first increase since September. The gain was mainly in part-time work (+76,000; +11.5%), with retail trade contributing most to the increase. The unemployment rate fell 2.4 percentage points to 6.4%, the lowest level since February 2020. With more people working in February, employment in Quebec rose to within 3.2% of its pre-COVID level.

Employment in Ontario increased by 100,000 (+1.4%) in February, mostly in part-time work (+62,000; +5.6%). The overall employment gain was the largest since September and brought employment to within 4.1% of its pre-COVID level. Notable increases occurred in accommodation and food services as well as retail trade. The unemployment rate fell a full percentage point to 9.2%, but remained well above the pre-pandemic rate of 5.5%. In the Toronto census metropolitan area, where a number of public health measures remained in place as of the LFS reference week, employment was virtually unchanged in February.

Chart 7  Chart 7: Employment furthest from pre-COVID level in Newfoundland and Labrador
Employment furthest from pre-COVID level in Newfoundland and Labrador

Employment in Newfoundland and Labrador fell by 15,000 (-6.8%) in February, the second consecutive monthly decrease. The province was placed in lockdown on February 12, just prior to the start of LFS reference week, with all but essential businesses closed. Employment losses were mainly in full-time work and were widespread across industries. With the losses in February, employment in the province settled at 7.6% below the February 2020 level. The unemployment rate increased 2.5 percentage points to 15.3% in February, higher than in all other provinces.

Employment increases in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba

Following two months of little change, employment in British Columbia increased by 27,000 (+1.0%) in February. The unemployment rate dropped 1.1 percentage points to 6.9%, but remained above the pre-COVID rate of 5.1%. The employment increase in February was virtually all in part-time work and largely in retail trade and educational services.

In Alberta, employment rose 17,000 (+0.8%). Most of the overall employment increase was in accommodation and food services and coincided with the easing of restrictions on restaurants, cafés and bars. With more people working, the unemployment rate fell 0.8 percentage points to 9.9%, the lowest since March 2020.

The number of people working in Manitoba increased (+16,000; +2.6%) in February, the second consecutive monthly increase. Almost all of the gains were in part-time work. Employment gains were spread across several industries, with a notable increase in retail trade. The province eased restrictions on retail stores and hair salons on January 23 and on gyms, yoga studios, dine-in restaurants and personal services on February 12. The unemployment rate fell 1.2 percentage points to 6.8% in February, the lowest since October 2020.

Youth employment recovers losses from recent months

Employment among youth aged 15 to 24 rose by 100,000 (+4.5%) in February, with increases in both full-time (+36,000; +2.9%) and part-time (+64,000; +6.5%) work. Employment among youth was 10.6% lower than pre-COVID February 2020 levels, with employment among teens (-12.3%) lagging older youth (-9.8%).

Pandemic-related changes to the labour market have disproportionately affected young women. Year-over-year employment losses among young women (-181,000; -14.1%) were nearly double those seen among young men (-96,000; -7.3%). Part-time losses for young women were particularly significant (-152,000; -20.6%)—nearly triple the part-time losses for young men (-57,000; -10.7%). Declines in the accommodation and food services; information, culture and recreation; and retail trade industries accounted for the vast majority (86.9%) of the net year-over-year losses in part-time work among young women (not seasonally adjusted).

Changes in employment opportunities for students accounted for the majority of the decline in part-time work among both young men and young women. One-third (32.1%) of female students were working part time in February, down more than 10 percentage points year over year (42.8%; not seasonally adjusted). Among male students, the share working part time fell by 3.2 percentage points to 29.8% (not seasonally adjusted).

The impact of reduced youth employment since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic is mostly reflected in higher unemployment rather than exits from the labour market. Compared with 12 months earlier, unemployment in February 2021 had nearly doubled for young women (+118,000; +92.6%) and increased by almost one-third (+58,000; +32.7%) for young men. In contrast, the number of youth in the labour force fell by 63,000 (-4.5%) among young women and by 38,000 (-2.5%) among young men over the same period.

Chart 8  Chart 8: Labour market impacts of COVID-19 affect young women more than young men
Labour market impacts of COVID-19 affect young women more than young men

The unemployment rate for youth fell 2.6 percentage points to 17.1% in February, similar to the recent low in November 2020 but still higher than a year earlier (10.4%). The unemployment rate fell both among young men (-3.2 percentage points to 16.1%) and young women (-2.0 percentage points to 18.1%). The unemployment rate is typically higher for young men than young women; however, this trend was reversed as a result of the March/April 2020 and January/February 2021 lockdowns, as half of young women are employed in accommodation and food services, and retail trade—industries among the most affected by pandemic restrictions.

February gains return employment to December levels among core-aged women

Employment rose by 134,000 (+1.1%) among people aged 25 to 54 in February, restoring much of the job losses that occurred in January, particularly among women working part time. With the easing of public health measures in February, employment for core-aged women increased by 79,000 (+1.4%), entirely in part-time work, while employment gains for core-aged men (+54,000; +0.9%) were driven by full-time work. Employment for both core-aged men and women was 1.8% lower than its pre-COVID level.

Compared with one year ago, the recovery in total employment for both core-aged men and women has been similar; however, there are significant differences in full- and part-time work. For women, there have been year-over-year losses in both full-time (-67,000; -1.4%) and part-time (-41,000; -4.0%) employment, whereas losses for men have been entirely in full-time work (-157,000; -2.6%). The number of core-aged men working part time rose by 40,000 (+11.3%) year over year, largely driven by more of them working part time involuntarily.

The unemployment rate for core-aged women fell 1.3 percentage points in February to 6.5%, returning to the low observed in December. The unemployment rate for core-aged men fell 0.6 percentage points to 6.9%, the lowest rate since March 2020. The participation rate for core-aged adults was virtually unchanged from January, remaining similar to pre-pandemic levels for both men (91.1%) and women (83.6%).

Employment increases for people aged 55 and older

Employment among people aged 55 and older rose by 25,000 (+0.6%) in February, following four months with little growth. Employment for this group reached its highest level since the start of the pandemic, but was down 2.3% compared with one year earlier (-1.6% for older men and -3.2% for older women).

The unemployment rate fell 0.9 percentage points to 7.1% for older men and 1.3 percentage points to 7.2% for older women, similar to the recent lows observed in November. The participation rate for people aged 55 and older edged down 0.2 percentage points to 37.1% in February, and was 0.9 percentage points lower than the same month last year.

Population declines continue to exceed employment losses for very recent immigrants

Employment for very recent immigrants (arriving in the last five years) was down 12.1% from February 2020, while their population fell 13.8%. As a result, the employment rate for very recent immigrants for the three-month period ending in February (65.3%) was little changed on a year-over-year basis (not seasonally adjusted).

As COVID-19 travel restrictions on immigration remained in place throughout the pandemic, the number of newcomers fell to record lows. With population declines far exceeding employment losses, the employment rate for immigrants who landed within the last five years recovered quickly from early pandemic losses before reaching a plateau in the fall.

For immigrants who landed more than five years ago, employment was 1.0% below the pre-pandemic level and their employment rate was 2.4 percentage points lower at 57.3%. Among people born in Canada, employment in the three months ending in February was down 3.5% from 12 months earlier, while the share of employed declined 3.1 percentage points to 58.3%.

Chart 9  Chart 9: Population declines far exceed employment losses for very recent immigrants
Population declines far exceed employment losses for very recent immigrants

Employment rate still lagging for Indigenous Canadians, particularly women

The employment rate among Indigenous Canadians for the three-month period ending in February was 51.3%, down 4.9 percentage points from February 2020 (not seasonally adjusted). Over the same period, the employment rate among non-Indigenous Canadians fell 2.7 percentage points to 58.5%. The employment rate fell among Indigenous women (-6.8 percentage points) and was unchanged for Indigenous men, while declines among non-Indigenous people were similar for men (-2.4 percentage points) and women (-3.0 percentage points).

Looking ahead: Employment rate continues to increase but remains below pre-COVID level

As the labour market enters a second year of recovery from the effects of COVID-19, both the level of employment and the employment rate will be important indicators of labour market conditions. To return to pre-pandemic employment rates, the level of employment must increase beyond February 2020 levels to match any population growth that has occurred since then.

In February 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the employment rate—that is, the proportion of the population aged 15 and older that was employed—was 61.8%. By April, the rate had fallen more than 10 percentage points to 51.5%, the lowest rate since comparable data became available in 1976. The employment rate has trended upward since May 2020, and, in February 2021, it stood at 59.4%, 2.4 percentage points lower than 12 months earlier.

Although the pace of population growth has slowed during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been some increase. Had there been no population growth—that is, had the population remained the same in February 2021 as one year earlier—the employment rate in February 2021 would have been 59.9%, 1.9 percentage points below the pre-pandemic rate.

As Canadian workers and businesses continue to adapt to the changing realities of COVID-19, LFS data on the employment rate and other indicators will help shed light on the recovery path for different groups of workers.













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 February are for the week of February 14 to 20.

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."

This analysis focuses on differences between estimates that are statistically significant at the 68% confidence level.

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

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

Since March 2020, all face-to-face interviews have been replaced by telephone interviews to protect the health of both interviewers and respondents. In addition, all telephone interviews were conducted by interviewers working from their home and none were done from Statistics Canada's call centres. As has been the case each month since June, approximately 40,000 interviews were completed in February.

The distribution of LFS interviews in February 2021 compared with January 2021, was as follows:

Telephone interviews – from interviewer homes

• January 2021: 67.6%

• February 2021: 67.0%

Online interviews

• January 2021: 32.4%

• February 2021: 33.0%

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 aged 15 and older.

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.

Supplementary indicators used in February 2021 analysis

To continue capturing the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the labour market, the supplementary indicators used in March and April 2020 were slightly adapted. Therefore, the May 2020 to February 2021 supplementary indicators are not directly comparable to the supplementary indicators published for March and April 2020.

Employed, worked zero hours includes employees and self-employed who were absent from work all week, but excludes people who have been away for reasons such as 'vacation,' 'maternity,' 'seasonal business,' and 'labour dispute.'

Employed, worked less than half of their usual hours includes both employees and self-employed, where only employees were asked to provide a reason for the absence. This excludes reasons for absence such as 'vacation,' 'labour dispute,' 'maternity,' 'holiday,' and 'weather.' Also excludes those who were away all week.

Not in labour force but wanted work includes persons who were neither employed, nor unemployed during the reference period and wanted work, but did not search for reasons such as 'waiting for recall (to former job),' 'waiting for replies from employers,' 'believes no work available (in area, or suited to skills),' 'long-term future start,' and 'other.'

Unemployed, job searchers were without work, but had looked for work in the past four weeks ending with the reference period and were available for work.

Unemployed, temporary layoff or future starts were on temporary layoff due to business conditions, with an expectation of recall, and were available for work; or were without work, but had a job to start within four weeks from the reference period and were available for work (don't need to have looked for work during the four weeks ending with the reference week).

Labour underutilization rate (specific definition to measure the COVID-19 impact) combines all those who were unemployed with those who were not in the labour force but wanted a job and did not look for one; as well as those who remained employed but lost all or the majority of their usual work hours for reasons likely related to COVID-19 as a proportion of the potential labour force.

Potential labour force (specific definition to measure the COVID-19 impact) includes people in the labour force (all employed and unemployed people), and people not in the labour force who wanted a job but didn't search for reasons such as 'waiting for recall (to former job),' 'waiting for replies from employers,' 'believes no work available (in area, or suited to skills),' 'long-term future start,' and 'other.'

Information on population groups

Beginning in July 2020, the LFS includes a question asking respondents to report the population groups to which they belong. Possible responses, which are the same as in the 2016 Census, include:

• White

• South Asian e.g., East Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan

• Chinese

• Black

• Filipino

• Arab

• Latin American

• Southeast Asian e.g., Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Thai

• West Asian e.g., Iranian, Afghan

• Korean

• Japanese

• Other

For LFS records interviewed before July 2020, population group characteristics were assigned using an experimental sample matching data integration method, which involves LFS and the Census of Population. These historical data complement occasional population group data collected directly in LFS, through a comparison of year-over-year changes in the unemployment rate.

According to the Employment Equity Act, visible minorities are "persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour." In the text, data for the population who identify as Aboriginals are analyzed separately. The remaining category is described as "people not designated as visible minorities" or "people who are not a visible minority."

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.

The seasonally adjusted data for retail trade and wholesale trade industries presented here are not published in other public LFS tables. A seasonally adjusted series is published for the combined industry classification (wholesale and retail trade).

Revisions to the Labour Force Survey

To ensure that the LFS reflects current labour market conditions as accurately as possible, data are revised following each census to reflect the most recently available population estimates, geographic boundaries, and industry and occupation classifications.

Changes to LFS data tables on the Statistics Canada website and information products resulting from this historical revision were released on January 25, 2021.

Next release

The next release of the LFS will be on April 9, 2021. March data will reflect labour market conditions during the week of March 14 to 20.

Products

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.

The product Labour Force Survey: Public Use Microdata File (Catalogue number71M0001X) is also available. This public use microdata file contains non-aggregated data for a wide variety of variables collected from the Labour Force Survey. The data have been modified to ensure that no individual or business is directly or indirectly identified. This product is for users who prefer to do their own analysis by focusing on specific subgroups in the population or by cross-classifying variables that are not in our catalogued products.

Contact information

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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