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Labour Force Survey, May 2021

Released: 2021-06-04

May Labour Force Survey (LFS) data reflect labour market conditions during the week of May 9 to 15.

Following the April reference week, tighter public health restrictions continued or were introduced in several provinces. In Ontario, a stay-at-home order implemented on April 8 continued, affecting many non-essential businesses. Remote schooling, which began following the April spring break, also continued across the province.

In early May, both Alberta and Manitoba introduced measures that included the closure of personal care services, recreational facilities and in-person dining, as well as limits on retail store capacity and a transition to remote schooling for all or large parts of each province.

Nova Scotia entered a province-wide shutdown on April 28, closing non-essential retail stores and moving all schools to remote learning. Provincial border restrictions were tightened on May 10.

In contrast, New Brunswick and Quebec eased restrictions in some regions through late April and early May.

Highlights

Employment falls for a second month under third-wave restrictions

Employment fell by 68,000 (-0.4%) in May. Almost all of the decline was in part-time work (-54,000; -1.6%).

The number of self-employed workers was virtually unchanged in May, but remained 5.0% (-144,000) below its pre-pandemic level.

Among people working part time in May, almost one-quarter (22.7%) wanted a full-time job, up from 18.5% in February 2020 (not seasonally adjusted).

The number of Canadians working from home held steady at 5.1 million.

After falling in April, total hours worked were little changed in May.

Ontario and Nova Scotia accounted for most of the overall employment decline in May.

Employment increased in Saskatchewan, while there was little change in all other provinces.

Unemployment little changed

The unemployment rate was little changed at 8.2% in May, as the number of people who searched for a job or who were on temporary layoff held steady.

The unemployment rate among visible minority Canadians aged 15 to 69 rose 1.5 percentage points to 11.4% in May (not seasonally adjusted).

Long-term unemployment—the number of people unemployed for 27 weeks or more—held relatively steady at 478,000 in May.

Students start off the summer ahead of 2020 but behind 2019

In May 2021, the unemployment rate among returning students was 23.1%, compared with 40.0% in May 2020 and 13.7% in May 2019.

Driven in part by labour market conditions faced by students, total employment among youth aged 15 to 24 fell by 27,000 (-1.2%).

Employment held steady among both women and men aged 25 to 54.

The participation rate for women aged 25 to 54 dropped for the second consecutive month, falling 0.5 percentage points to 83.1%.

Among people aged 55 and older, employment was little changed for men, while it fell 18,000 (-1.0%) among women.

Employment declines hit goods-producing sector

In May, total employment in the goods-producing sector decreased for the first time since April 2020.

The number of people working in manufacturing fell by 36,000 (-2.0%), the first decline in the industry since April 2020.

Employment also fell in retail trade (-29,000) and "other services" (-24,000), two industries that continue to be affected by ongoing public health restrictions.

There were employment gains in transportation and warehousing (+22,000) and natural resources (+8,600).

Natural resources is the industry furthest along in its post-COVID recovery, with employment surpassing February 2020 levels by 29,000 (+9.3%).

Employment falls for a second month under third-wave restrictions

Employment fell by 68,000 (-0.4%) in May, adding to a decline of 207,000 in April. The unemployment rate was little changed at 8.2%.

In addition to the employment declines, the number of employed people working less than half their usual hours increased for a second consecutive month, rising by 83,000 (+6.1%). Total hours worked were virtually unchanged in the month, but remained 3.8% below pre-pandemic levels.

Employment in the goods-producing sector dropped for the first time since April 2020, with decreases in both the manufacturing and construction industries. Ontario and Nova Scotia were the only provinces to register declines in total employment.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Employment falls for second consecutive month
Employment falls for second consecutive month

Part-time work declines

Almost all of the employment decline in May was in part-time work, which fell 54,000 (-1.6%), following a drop of 78,000 (-2.3%) in April. These two consecutive monthly declines brought part-time employment to 7.5% (-268,000) below pre-pandemic February 2020 levels. Declines in May were mainly in British Columbia and Ontario, where public health restrictions were still in place. At the national level, declines were concentrated among women aged 25 to 54 (-36,000; -3.7%) and young men aged 15 to 24 (-20,000; -4.1%).

Full-time employment was little changed in May, following a decline of 129,000 (-0.8%) in April. Prior to April, full-time employment had steadily trended upwards, following the low in April 2020. In May 2021, the number of full-time workers was down 1.9% (-303,000) from its pre-pandemic level.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Part-time employment furthest from pre-pandemic level
Part-time employment furthest from pre-pandemic level

Involuntary part-time rate remains elevated, particularly for men

The share of part-time workers who would prefer full-time employment—known as the involuntary part-time rate—is an important indicator of overall labour market conditions. For workers, an inability to find full-time work may have a number of consequences, including financial pressures and delays in accumulating employment experience.

Among those working part time in May, almost one-quarter (22.7%) wanted a full-time job, up from 18.5% in February 2020 (not seasonally adjusted). The rate of involuntary part-time work was higher—and had increased more since the beginning of the pandemic—among men (26.3%; +6.2 percentage points) than among women (20.5%; +2.8 percentage points).

Among men in the core working age group of 25 to 54 who were working part time in May, more than 4 in 10 (41.8%) would have preferred full-time work, up from a record low of 36.8% in 2019. Across industries, the highest rate of involuntary part-time work for core-aged men in May 2021 was in accommodation and food services (50.2%), up 16.7 percentage points from February 2020.

Private sector employees in sales and services most affected by restrictions

The number of private sector employees declined by 60,000 in May (-0.5%), adding to losses observed in April (-204,000; -1.7%). This followed employment gains totalling 427,000 in February and March 2021—demonstrating the extent to which employment for this group of workers has been affected by the easing and tightening of public health measures introduced to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Compared with February 2020, the number of private sector employees was down 564,000 (-4.6%), with the gap driven mostly by declines in the number of people working in the accommodation and food services industry, particularly those working in sales and services occupations (not seasonally adjusted).

The number of self-employed workers was virtually unchanged in May, but remained 5.0% (-144,000) below its pre-pandemic level. Despite an increase in March 2021, self-employment has shown relatively little growth following its downward trend from February to August 2020.

In the public sector, there was little change in employment in May. Compared with February 2020, the number of employees in the public sector was up 137,000 (+3.5%), with gains spread across public administration, health care and social assistance, as well as educational services.

Working from home remains an important adaptation during the third wave

The number of Canadians who worked from home and worked at least half of their usual hours was little changed in May at 5.1 million, similar to its level in spring 2020. After declining following the first wave of COVID-19, the number of people working from home has increased in recent months, largely as a result of tighter public health restrictions throughout the winter and spring.

Working from home continues to vary across industries, and these differences can impact some groups of workers more than others. For example, Filipino Canadian workers aged 15 to 69 were among the least likely (16.0%) to work from home in May, as many worked in industries, such as manufacturing, and health care and social assistance, where it is less feasible to work from home. On the other hand, larger proportions of Chinese Canadian (45.6%) and South Asian Canadian (36.1%) workers were working from home in May, partly because of their higher representation in professional, scientific, and technical services, and finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing—two industries where a high share of workers have been able to work from home.

Total hours worked hold steady

After falling in April, total hours worked were little changed in May. Declines in industries affected by public health measures were offset by increases in hours worked in other industries, including educational services, and health care and social assistance. Hours worked had trended upwards during the first three months of 2021; however, with a decline in April and little change in May, hours worked were down 3.8% compared with the pre-pandemic levels recorded in February 2020.

Hours worked among the self-employed were little changed in May and were 13.2% lower than in February 2020. After returning to pre-pandemic levels in March, hours worked among employees fell back in April and were little changed in May at 2.1% below February 2020 levels.

Unemployment little changed, with fewer people in the labour market

The unemployment rate was little changed at 8.2% in May, as the number of people who searched for a job or who were on temporary layoff held steady. The unemployment rate remained lower than the recent peak of 9.4% seen in January 2021 and considerably lower than its peak of 13.7% in May 2020.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Unemployment rate holds steady
Unemployment rate holds steady

The unemployment rate among Canadians aged 15 to 69 who belong in population groups designated as visible minorities rose 1.5 percentage points to 11.4% in May (not seasonally adjusted). Increases were recorded among Filipino (+3.7 percentage points to 10.0%), Chinese (+2.9 percentage points to 12.3%) and South Asian Canadians (+1.6 percentage points to 10.8%). At the same time, the unemployment rate fell 0.6 percentage points to 7.0% among Canadians who were not a member of a visible minority group nor Indigenous (not seasonally adjusted).

Labour force participation drops, led by youth and core-aged women

The number of people participating in the labour force (that is, they are either employed or unemployed) fell by 56,000 (-0.3%) in May. The overall labour force participation rate dropped 0.3 percentage points in May to 64.6%.

The number of youth aged 15 to 24 participating in the labour force fell by 38,000 (-1.3%) in May, partly because there were fewer students in the summer job market than during a typical month of May.

Among core-aged women aged 25 to 54, participation declined by 39,000 (-0.6%). Most of the decline was attributable to a decline in the number of core-age women searching for work or on temporary layoff (-26,000; -6.1%). The number of women aged 25 to 54 who wanted work but did not look for work increased by 28,000 (+17.3%), indicating that some women may have stopped searching for employment as a result of unfavourable business conditions, as the third wave of lockdowns continued in Ontario and restrictions were tightened in several other regions.

Number of discouraged job searchers remains high

If the people who wanted work but did not look for work were included among the unemployed, the adjusted unemployment rate in May would have been 10.7%, little changed from April.

There are various reasons why people who want to work do not search for a job in a given month, including illness or other personal circumstances. Some people—referred to as discouraged searchers—want a job but, do not look for one because of business conditions or because they believe no work is available. The number of discouraged searchers typically increases during economic downturns, and then recedes as job searchers regain confidence in the labour market.

In May, there were 49,700 discouraged searchers, accounting for 9.3% of those who wanted work but did not look for work (not seasonally adjusted). This was down from the record high of 146,000 in April 2020, but more than twice the average of 22,000 seen in 2019.

Increase in labour underutilization rate driven by lost hours

The labour underutilization rate—which complements the unemployment rate by capturing a broader range of people who are available and want to work—rose 0.6 percentage points to 17.6% in May. The rise was driven mostly by an increase in the number of people who were employed but who worked less than half their usual hours (+83,000; +6.1%).

All components of the underutilization rate remained higher than in February 2020, including those who were employed but worked less than half their usual hours (+617,000; +76.0%); job searchers (+382,000; +36.7%); those on temporary layoff or with arrangements to start a job in the near future (+125,000; +118.5%); and those who wanted a job but who did not look for one (+178,000; +44.8%).

Infographic 1  Thumbnail for Infographic 1: Labour market underutilization ticks up in May
Labour market underutilization ticks up in May

Long-term unemployment remains near record highs

Long-term unemployment—the number of people unemployed for 27 weeks or more—held relatively steady at 478,000 in May. This was up 299,000 (+166.8%) compared with the pre-pandemic level in February 2020.

Long-term unemployment has remained at near-record highs since the fall of 2020, reflecting the continued flow into this category of people who lost their jobs in the spring, summer and fall of 2020 and who have since remained unemployed.

Students start off the summer ahead of 2020, but behind 2019 

To shed light on the situation of young people seeking summer employment, from May to August, labour force information (not seasonally adjusted) is available for "returning students," or youth aged 15 to 24 who attended school full time in March and who intend to return in September.

In May 2020, when many groups—including students—were facing unprecedented challenges resulting from the early stages of the COVID-19 economic shutdown, the unemployment rate for returning students stood at 40.0%, compared with 13.7% in May 2019. In May 2021, the equivalent rate was 23.1%, reflecting the ongoing labour market challenges faced by youth.

Employment among returning students was 15.6% lower (-177,000) in May 2021 than in May 2019. In addition to declines in three industries where student employment is concentrated and which are among the most impacted by public health restrictions—retail trade, accommodation and food services, and information, culture and recreation—employment was down compared with May 2019 in the business, building and other support services industry (-16,000; -42.1%), which includes seasonal activities such as landscaping. In contrast, the number of returning students working in health care and social assistance was 34,000 (+64.3%) higher than two years earlier.

The number of returning students participating in the labour market in May—that is, who were either employed or unemployed—was 114,000 (+10.0%) higher than in May 2020, when the labour market was still reeling from the impact of the initial COVID-19 economic shutdown. Nevertheless, student participation was 69,000 (-5.2%) lower than in May 2019.

Chart 4  Chart 4: Summer employment for students up in health care and social assistance
Summer employment for students up in health care and social assistance

Student employment rate lower for females and population groups designated as visible minorities

The employment rate for returning students was 39.5% in May, down 7.5 percentage points from two years earlier, with female students twice as far from May 2019 levels (down 10.6 percentage points to 41.2%) as their male counterparts (down 4.2 percentage points to 37.6%). In comparison, the employment rate among non-student youth was 74.6%, a drop of 4.5 percentage points from May 2019.

The employment rate in May was 13.0 percentage points lower for returning students who belong to a population group designated as a visible minority (31.8%, not seasonally adjusted) than for those who were not a member of a visible minority group (44.8%).

Unemployment increases for visible minority youth

Driven in part by labour market conditions faced by returning students, total employment among youth aged 15 to 24 fell by 27,000 (-1.2%) on a seasonally adjusted basis, and this included a decline of 33,000 (-4.3%) among young women aged 20 to 24. Employment among all young women aged 15 to 24 remained further from February 2020 levels (-187,000; -14.5%) than that of young men (-103,000; -7.8%).

The unemployment rate was little changed in May for both male (16.1%) and female (15.8%) youth. For population groups designated as visible minorities, the youth unemployment rate rose 5.4 percentage points to 24.8% and the number of unemployed increased by 71,000 (+50.3%) (not seasonally adjusted). In comparison, the unemployment rate among young Canadians who are not members of a visible minority group was virtually unchanged at 14.9% (not seasonally adjusted).

Overall, youth labour force participation fell 38,000 (-1.3%) in May, with losses for young women aged 20 to 24 (-34,000; -4.0%) and young men aged 15 to 19 (-22,000; -4.2%). Compared with February 2020 level, the labour force participation rate was down 4.7 percentage points (to 60.6%) for female youth and 1.6 percentage points (to 62.7%) for male youth.

Labour force participation falls for core-aged women

Employment held steady among both women and men aged 25 to 54 in May. The number of people who were employed, but who worked less than half their usual hours increased by 44,000 (+12.7%) among core-aged men and was little changed among women in the same age group.

The number of core-aged women participating in the labour market fell by 39,000 (-0.6%) in May and the participation rate for this group dropped for the second consecutive month, falling 0.5 percentage points to 83.1%. Participation for core-aged women had recovered in fall 2020 to pre-pandemic levels, and held relatively steady until April 2021.

The labour force participation rate of core-aged men was virtually unchanged at 91.4% in May and has held relatively steady since its return to pre-pandemic levels in fall 2020.

Long-term gap in employment rate persists among core-aged workers in population groups designated as visible minorities

In May, the employment rate of core-aged workers in population groups designated as visible minorities (78.2%, not seasonally adjusted) was lower than the rate of their counterparts who were not members of a visible minority group (84.6%). This difference predates COVID-19, and is consistent with results from the 2016 Census of Population. In May 2021, the gap in the employment rate between visible minority and non-visible minority Canadians continued to be wider among women (72.5% versus 81.6%) than men (84.6% versus 87.5%).

Unemployment increases among older Canadians, particularly women

Among people aged 55 and older, employment in May was little changed for men, while it fell 18,000 (-1.0%) among women. Compared with February 2020, the number of older men who were employed was little changed, but for older women, employment was down 61,000 (-3.3%) as a result of losses in April and May 2021.

The share of older women in the labour force—that is, older women who were either employed or unemployed—was unchanged in May for the third consecutive month, remaining 0.5 percentage points below pre-pandemic levels at 32.0%. Among older men, the labour force participation rate has essentially returned to February 2020 levels, at 43.6%.

The unemployment rate for women aged 55 and older increased 1.0 percentage points to 8.9% in May, with most of the increase in unemployment attributable to temporary layoffs. The rate for men in the same age group edged up 0.4 percentage points to 7.4%, following an increase in the number of job searchers. Compared with February 2020, the unemployment rate for older women has risen nearly twice as much (up 3.9 percentage points) as the rate for older men (up 2.1 percentage points).

Employment rate for very recent immigrants still trending up

Employment among immigrants who landed in Canada within the previous five years was down 11.2% in May compared with the pre-pandemic level recorded in February 2020 (three-month moving average, not seasonally adjusted). Over the same period, the population of these very recent immigrants fell 15.0%, as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, bringing the number of newcomers entering Canada to record lows. Because their population fell more sharply than their employment, the employment rate among very recent immigrants continued its upward trend, reaching 66.8% in May, up 2.8 percentage points compared with February 2020.

In comparison, the employment rate in May among immigrants in Canada for more than five years (57.6%) was down 2.1 percentage points compared with February 2020, while the rate among people born in Canada (59.4%) was down 2.0 percentage points over the same period (three-month moving average, not seasonally adjusted).

Employment rate for Indigenous women remains furthest below the pre-pandemic level

LFS information for Indigenous people reflects the experience of those who identify as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit, and who live off-reserve in the provinces.

While Indigenous men and women were hit equally hard by the initial labour market impact of the pandemic, the employment rate for Indigenous men rebounded strongly through the summer of 2020 and again from March to May 2021. By May, it was little changed compared with February 2020 at 58.4% (three-month moving average, not seasonally adjusted). Despite this recovery, it remained lower than the rate among non-Indigenous men, consistent with historical trends.

On the other hand, the employment rate for Indigenous women (51.6%) did not see a rebound in 2020, and remained 3.3 percentage points below its pre-pandemic level in May 2021, despite trending upwards since January 2021. The health care and social assistance industry accounted for the largest share of the increase in employment among Indigenous women since January 2021 (three-month moving average, not seasonally adjusted).

Among the non-Indigenous population, the employment rate for men (63.4%) was 1.2 percentage points lower in May compared with February 2020; for women, the rate (55.5%) was 2.3 percentage points lower (three-month moving average, not seasonally adjusted).

Chart 5  Chart 5: Employment rate for Indigenous women furthest below pre-pandemic level
Employment rate for Indigenous women furthest below pre-pandemic level

Employment declines hit goods-producing industries

In May, total employment in the goods-producing sector decreased for the first time since April 2020, with notable declines in manufacturing (-36,000) and construction (-16,000).

Employment also fell in retail trade (-29,000) and "other services" (-24,000), two industries that continue to be affected by ongoing public health restrictions. While employment was little changed in accommodation and food services in May, the industry continued to account for nearly two-thirds of the total employment gap compared with pre-COVID levels.

These monthly declines were partly offset by gains in transportation and warehousing (+22,000) and natural resources (+8,600).

Chart 6  Chart 6: Industries providing in-person services continue to account for most of the pre-COVID employment gap
Industries providing in-person services continue to account for most of the pre-COVID employment gap

Employment in manufacturing falls for the first time since April 2020

The number of people working in manufacturing fell by 36,000 (-2.0%) in May, the first decline in the industry since April 2020. Ontario and Quebec accounted for the majority of the overall decline, which mostly occurred among men (not seasonally adjusted). The manufacturing sector continues to be subject to a number of public health requirements, such as physical distancing and enhanced cleaning.

Flash estimates from the Monthly Survey of Manufacturing indicate that manufacturing sales declined 1.1% in April 2021.

While employment in the industry previously returned to its pre-COVID level in September 2020, there has been little growth since and employment continues to hover around February 2020 levels.

Employment in construction falls with tightening of public health restrictions in Ontario

Employment in construction fell by 16,000 (-1.1%) in May, driven by declines in Ontario, where public health restrictions affecting non-essential construction were implemented on April 17. The decrease brought the number of workers in construction down to 3.7% (-55,000) below pre-COVID levels.

Employment slides further in retail trade

Employment in retail trade fell by 29,000 (-1.4%) in May, following declines of 84,000 in April. This brought the number of workers in retail to 6.2% (-140,000) below pre-pandemic levels, the lowest level since February 2021. Tightening public health restrictions in many jurisdictions have affected the operation of stores that sell non-essential goods.

Compared with one year before the pandemic in May 2019, about half of the difference in employment (52.5%, not seasonally adjusted) in retail trade was attributable to occupations that typically require at least a high school diploma. However, managers—occupations that generally require higher levels of experience, knowledge or education—have also been affected, with losses representing nearly one-third of the employment gap (29.0%, not seasonally adjusted) with May 2019.

Employment in accommodation and food services remains almost one-third below pre-COVID levels

The number of people working in accommodation and food services was little changed in May, as restrictions on in-person dining continued across the country. Employment in the industry was 29.8% (-364,000) below its pre-COVID level, and accounted for nearly two-thirds (63.8%) of the overall employment decline (-571,000) since February 2020.

Within this industry, employment losses since May 2019 (one year before the pandemic) have disproportionately affected paid employees rather than the self-employed. While some employment losses were initially recorded among self-employed workers—a group that includes restaurant and hotel owners—employment has returned to a level similar to what it was in May 2019 (not seasonally adjusted). In comparison, the number of paid employees in the industry was nearly one-third lower (-30.6%) than in May 2019.

Fewer people working in "other services"

There were 24,000 (-3.2%) fewer people working in "other services" in May, an industry that includes personal care services, such as barber shops and beauty salons, as well as civic and religious organizations. The recovery in the industry has stalled since September 2020, when employment was within 3.2% of its pre-COVID level. With the loss in May, employment was 10.5% (-85,000) lower than in February 2020.

First employment gain in transportation and warehousing since December

Employment increased by 22,000 (+2.3%) in transportation and warehousing, with most of the rise attributable to Ontario and Saskatchewan. Nationally, a notable increase was observed in the truck transportation subsector. The monthly gain in transportation and warehousing was the first since December 2020, and brought the number of people working in the industry to within 4.0% of its pre-pandemic level.

While men account for about three-quarters of employment in transportation and warehousing, the employment difference compared with May 2019 was larger among women (-12.0%) than among men (-4.0%) in May (not seasonally adjusted). Prior to the pandemic, the share of workers in this industry employed in the hard-hit air transportation subsector was higher among women (13.2%) than men (6.9%).

Natural resources employment above pre-COVID level

In May, employment in natural resources rose by 8,600, almost entirely because of gains in Alberta. Following increases throughout most of the fall and winter, global oil prices have remained near pre-pandemic levels in recent months.

Natural resources is the industry furthest along in its post-COVID recovery, with employment surpassing February 2020 levels by 29,000 (+9.3%). The recent gains have also erased most of the losses associated with the long-term downward trend recorded from March 2019 to February 2020.

Fewer people working in Ontario and Nova Scotia

Stringent public health measures and a stay-at-home order remained in place in Ontario during the LFS reference week, while Nova Scotia had entered a lockdown at the end of April. Combined, these two provinces accounted for most of the overall employment decline in May. Employment increased in Saskatchewan, while there was little change in all other provinces.

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

Following a substantial decline in April (-153,000; -2.1%), employment in Ontario edged down (-32,000; -0.4%) in May as public health restrictions continued. The largest declines were in retail trade and information, culture and recreation, while more people worked in a number of other services-producing industries (including accommodation and food services). Declines were also seen in manufacturing and construction. The employment rate in Ontario was 58.3% in May, down 3.3 percentage points from February 2020, tied with Nova Scotia for the largest gap among provinces. The unemployment rate rose 0.3 percentage points in May to 9.3%. Employment was little changed in the Toronto census metropolitan area (CMA), where a lockdown remained in place.

Among returning students aged 15 to 24 in Ontario, the employment rate in May 2021 (35.4%) was down 10.0 percentage points compared with two years earlier. The unemployment rate for this group was 27.8%, up from 15.0% in May 2019, but down from 41.7% in May 2020 (not seasonally adjusted).

Following a province-wide lockdown in Nova Scotia, implemented in late April, employment declined by 22,000 (-4.8%) in May, the largest decrease since early in the pandemic. Losses in May impacted most major demographic groups, and both full- and part-time work. Employment declines were largely in retail trade, educational services, and accommodation and food services. The unemployment rate rose 1.7 percentage points to 9.8%. Nova Scotia's employment rate was 54.2% in May, down 3.3 percentage points from February 2020, matching Ontario's employment rate gap.

For the second consecutive month, Saskatchewan was the lone province to post employment growth in May, with the number of people working in the province rising by 4,100 (+0.7%). Gains were spread across industries, including retail trade, transportation and warehousing, as well as information, culture and recreation, while there were fewer people working in construction. The unemployment rate was 6.3%, little changed from April.

Employment held steady for the second consecutive month in Quebec, where restrictions eased in some regions of the province. Losses in accommodation and food services and manufacturing offset gains in a number of other industries. The employment rate was 59.5% in May, down 2.4 percentage points from February 2020. The unemployment rate in the province remained at 6.6% in May. In the Montréal CMA, employment was little changed.

Among returning students aged 15 to 24 in Quebec, 47.3% were employed in May, down 5.8 percentage points from May 2019 but up from 35.6% in May 2020. The unemployment rate among returning students was 14.8% in May, compared with 36.4% in May 2020 and 11.0% in May 2019 (not seasonally adjusted).

Chart 7  Chart 7: Employment losses in May concentrated in Ontario and Nova Scotia
Employment losses in May concentrated in Ontario and Nova Scotia

Looking ahead

During the summer of 2020, as Canada emerged from the first round of public health restrictions, employment rebounded at a record-breaking pace. Following the initial drop of nearly 3 million in March and April, the number of people working grew by 1.2 million over May and June, and by a further 1.0 million by September. Employment stalled through the fall as public health measures were put in place to combat the second wave of infections. As these restrictions began to ease, employment increases in February and March 2021 were also among the largest on record.

Since the May reference week, public health restrictions have eased in several jurisdictions. In British Columbia, many indoor and outdoor activities resumed on May 25. Quebec ended the nightly curfew and reopened outdoor dining on May 28, while Ontario's stay-at-home order was lifted on June 2. Vaccination rates have also continued to increase across the country. At the same time, measures to control the latest resurgence in infections remain in place in some areas, such as Nova Scotia and Manitoba.

As Canada continues to transition out of the third wave of the pandemic over the coming months, LFS data will help shed light on the ability of the labour market to fully integrate underutilized sources of labour and support inclusive employment growth.















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 Goals for Sustainable Development. This release will be used in helping to measure the following goals:

  Note to readers

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates for May are for the week of May 9 to 15.

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. Approximately 41,500 interviews were completed in May.

The distribution of LFS interviews in May 2021 compared with April 2021, was as follows:

Telephone interviews – from interviewer homes

  • April 2021: 65.2%
  • May 2021: 64.9%

Online interviews

  • April 2021: 34.8%
  • May 2021: 35.1%

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 May 2021 analysis

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 group(s) to which they belong. Possible responses, which are the same as in the 2021 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

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, people who identify as a member of a population group (visible minority) are analyzed separately.

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).

Next release

The next release of the LFS will be on July 9, 2021. June data will reflect labour market conditions during the week of June 13 to 19.

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 by province, sex, age group and industry.

The product "Labour Market Indicators, by province and census metropolitan area, seasonally adjusted" (Catalogue number71-607-X) is also available. This interactive dashboard provides customizable access to key labour market indicators.

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 labour market indicators for Canada, province, territory and economic region.

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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