Payroll employment, earnings and hours, and job vacancies, March 2021
March data from the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH) and the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey (JVWS) are now available. The SEPH provides an account of payroll employment—that is, the number of employees receiving pay or benefits during a given month—as well as earnings and hours worked. In conjunction with results from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), which provides an account of the number of people working during a specific week in the month, data from the SEPH and the JVWS contribute to a fuller understanding of labour market conditions in Canada.
In March, prior to the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, public health measures were partially and gradually eased in several parts of the country. In the Atlantic region, provinces eased restrictions to varying degrees throughout March. In Quebec, measures affecting restaurants and recreation and entertainment facilities were eased in some regions in late February and early March, while Montréal and surrounding regions remained under the highest level of restrictions. In Ontario, stay-at-home orders were lifted for all regions, although personal care services, recreation and fitness facilities, and in-person dining remained closed in some areas, including Toronto. Various measures were also eased in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Services-producing sector drives payroll employment increase in March
The number of employees receiving pay or benefits from their employer—measured in the SEPH as payroll employment—increased by 245,800 (+1.5%) in March, the strongest monthly growth since September 2020. The March LFS recorded an increase of 303,000 (+1.6%) in the number of people employed (including self-employed). The increases in both the SEPH and the LFS were driven by the services-producing sector, as easing public health measures allowed many businesses in retail trade and accommodation and food services to reopen.
Compared with February 2020, payroll employment in Canada was down by 897,900 (-5.3%) in March 2021.
SEPH payroll employment rose in eight provinces, with the largest increases in Ontario (+111,600; +1.8%), Quebec (+59,900; +1.7%) and Alberta (+33,700; +1.8%). Employment fell in Newfoundland and Labrador (-1,200; -0.6%), driven by a decline in accommodation and food services (-1,300; -9.9%), as in-person dining remained closed in St. John's and the Avalon Peninsula.
Average weekly earnings down in March as hourly paid employment increases
Average weekly earnings were $1,125 in March, down 0.8% from the previous month, as employment gains in March were driven by hourly paid—and largely lower-paid—employees.
Compared with February 2020, earnings were 7.6% higher in March 2021. The higher average weekly earnings since the beginning of the pandemic reflect a number of factors, including the composition of the overall labour market in terms of the distribution of hourly paid and salaried employees and industries of employment. While the employment gap between hourly paid and salaried employees narrowed in March, the number of hourly paid employees was 6.1% below its pre-COVID-19 level, while the number of salaried employees was 4.1% below its pre-COVID-19 level. Likewise, the sectors that remained furthest from their pre-COVID-19 employment levels—arts, entertainment and recreation (-36.5%), and accommodation and food services (-29.3%)—are among those with the lowest average weekly earnings.
Average hours worked decrease for hourly paid employees
Average hours worked per week for hourly paid employees were 31.6 in March, 1.3% lower than in February. Average hours worked per week for salaried employees were little changed, at 37.1.
Payroll employment increases in services-producing sectors as public health measures eased
Payroll employment increased in most services-producing sectors in March (+220,800; +1.7%), led by retail trade (+77,200; +4.1%), and accommodation and food services (+39,900; +4.4%), as public health measures were eased in many jurisdictions. Despite the increase in March, payroll employment in retail trade was 2.9% below its pre-COVID-19 level, while employment in accommodation and food services was 29.3% below its pre-COVID-19 level.
The largest growth in payroll employment in retail trade was in clothing and clothing accessories stores (+27,200; +17.4%), followed by sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores (+11,500; +17.4%). As reported in the retail trade release, retail sales rose 3.6% in March. Average weekly earnings in retail trade were $633 in March, up 1.1% compared with February 2020.
Payroll employment in full-service restaurants and limited-service eating places, the largest industry within accommodation and food services, rose by 34,900 (+4.8%) in March as restrictions affecting this industry continued to be eased. Average weekly earnings in accommodation and food services were $448 in March, up 4.4% compared with February 2020.
Upward trend continues for payroll employment in health care and social assistance
Payroll employment in health care and social assistance continued to increase in March, up 22,100 (+1.1%), bringing employment to 1.8% above its pre-COVID-19 level. The increase was led by ambulatory health care services (+10,800; +1.8%), which include out-patient care centres and home health care services. Payroll employment in this subsector has been on an upward trend since May 2020, and, in March 2021, it was 7.6% above its pre-COVID-19 level.
Average weekly earnings in health care and social assistance were $1,010 in March, up 5.8% compared with February 2020.
Payroll employment gains in the goods-producing sector driven by construction and manufacturing
While most of the growth in payroll employment in March was in the services-producing sector, there was also a notable increase in the goods-producing sector (+20,900; +0.7%), driven by construction (+11,100; +1.1%) and manufacturing (+7,700; +0.5%).
The March payroll employment increase in construction was shared between all three subsectors (specialty trade contractors, heavy and civil engineering construction, and construction of buildings). The month-over-month gain brought payroll employment in construction to 0.7% below its pre-COVID-19 level observed in February 2020, the highest it has been since the onset of the pandemic.
There were notable month-over-month payroll employment gains in 10 of the 21 subsectors in manufacturing, with the largest increase in food manufacturing. As of March, the number of payroll employees in the sector was 4.0% below its February 2020 level, closer to its pre-COVID-19 level than at any point since the onset of the pandemic.
One-sixth of all job vacancies in Canada in March are in the health care and social assistance sector
In March, Canadian employers were actively recruiting for an estimated 632,700 positions (not seasonally adjusted), corresponding to a job vacancy rate of 4.1% (vacant positions as a proportion of all positions, vacant and occupied). This followed rates between 3.0% and 3.9% from October 2020 to February 2021. Quebec (5.1%) and British Columbia (4.9%) continued to have the highest job vacancy rates among the provinces (not seasonally adjusted).
In March, health care and social assistance had more job vacancies (104,200, not seasonally adjusted) than any other sector, for a fifth consecutive month. One-sixth of all job vacancies in Canada in the month were in this sector.
Retail trade (75,300) and accommodation and food services (68,400) had the second- and third-highest numbers of job vacancies among the sectors (not seasonally adjusted).
The job vacancy rate in accommodation and food services was 7.4% in March, higher than in all other sectors in the month, and the highest job vacancy rate for this sector since monthly job vacancy estimates became available in October 2020. The vacancy rate in accommodation and food services reflected increased recruitment in the sector prior to the onset of the third wave of COVID-19 at the end of the month.
Looking ahead: Impact of COVID-19 third wave
After nearly two months of loosened restrictions in several parts of the country, signs of an imminent third wave of COVID-19 started to appear before the end of March, leading to tighter public health measures across Canada throughout the month of April. April SEPH data—to be released on June 24—will provide detailed information on sectors and subsectors that may have been impacted by the tightening of COVID-19 public health measures that month.
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
Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours
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.
Payroll employment, as measured by the SEPH, refers to 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.
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 the 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 the 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
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 occupation for Canada and the provinces, territories and economic regions, offered hourly wages 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-to-month and quarter-to-quarter comparisons should be interpreted with caution as they may reflect seasonal movements.
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 data tables 14-10-0357-01, 14-10-0358-01, 14-10-0331-01 and 14-10-0332-01 will be updated on June 14.
Data on payroll employment, earnings and hours, and job vacancies for April will be released on June 24.
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).