Analysis — March 2012

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Following four months of little change, employment increased by 82,000 in March, mostly in full-time work. This brought the unemployment rate down 0.2 percentage points to 7.2%.

Compared to 12 months earlier, employment was up 1.1% or 197,000. Almost all of this growth was in full time, up 181,000 (+1.3%), while part-time employment edged up. The total number of hours worked rose by 1.6% over the same period.

Employment gains in March were spread across several industries, including health care and social assistance; information, culture and recreation; and public administration. There was a decline in educational services.

Employment increased in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba, while it declined in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

In March, employment rose among people aged 55 and over and among youths, while it was little changed for those aged 25 to 54.

Employment in March increased notably among private sector employees, and edged up for public sector employees and the self-employed. Over the past 12 months, the number of private sector employees grew by 1.7%, while public sector and self-employment were little changed.

Employment increases in services

Following three months of small declines, employment in health care and social assistance increased by 32,000 in March. With these gains, employment in this industry was up 2.0% (+42,000) compared with March 2011.

There were gains of 28,000 in information, culture and recreation in March. Employment over the past 12 months increased by 6.7% (+52,000) in this industry, with all of the growth occurring in the past four months.

Employment rose by 15,000 in public administration in March, following a decline of similar magnitude the previous month. Compared to 12 months earlier, employment in this industry was little changed.

Natural resources employment edged up in March. Total growth over the previous 12 months reached 11.0% (+37,000), the fastest growth rate of all industries.

Following increases in the previous two months, employment declined by 25,000 in educational services. Employment in the industry remains little changed compared to March 2011.

Manufacturing employment edged up in March, the fourth consecutive month of modest increases. However, compared to 12 months earlier, the number of factory workers was down slightly.

Gains in Central Canada

Following four months of little change, Ontario posted employment gains of 46,000, all in full-time work. The unemployment rate in the province declined by 0.2 percentage points to 7.4%, its lowest level in three years. With this month's gain, employment in Ontario was up 1.3% (+89,000) since March 2011.

Employment in Quebec increased by 36,000 in March, pushing the unemployment rate down 0.5 percentage points to 7.9%. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment in the province was unchanged.

Employment rose by 6,100 in Manitoba, bringing the unemployment rate down 0.3 percentage points to 5.3%. With this increase, employment in the province was up slightly compared to 12 months earlier.

In March, employment fell by 5,700 in New Brunswick, bringing employment down by 6,600 (-1.9%) from 12 months earlier. While Nova Scotia showed declines in March (-2,900), the employment level in the province was slightly up from 12 months earlier (+0.7%).

While employment in Alberta was little changed in March, employment growth continued to be the highest among the provinces for the 12-month period, at 3.1% (+65,000). With more people participating in the labour market in March, the unemployment rate increased 0.3 percentage points to 5.3%.

Increases among people aged 55 and over and youths

Employment among those aged 55 and over continued on an upward trend in March, up 47,000. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment among men and women of this age group increased by 5.8% or 176,000, partly due to population aging.

Employment rose by 39,000 among youths aged 15 to 24 in March, pushing their unemployment rate down 0.8 percentage points to 13.9%. Despite the increase in March, the number of youths employed has changed little since July 2009—the lowest point of the last labour market downturn.

Employment was unchanged among people aged 25 to 54 in March. Compared to 12 months earlier, employment for this age group was up slightly, with gains among both men and women.

Quarterly update for the territories

The Labour Force Survey also collects labour market information about the territories. This information is produced monthly in the form of three-month moving averages. The following estimates are not seasonally adjusted; therefore, comparisons should only be made on a year-over-year basis.

Employment levels in all three territories were little changed from the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of 2012.

Over the same period, the unemployment rate increased from 5.1% to 9.0% in Yukon and rose from 6.3% to 8.7% in the Northwest Territories, as more people were looking for work. During the same period, the unemployment rate in Nunavut declined from 17.3% to 15.3%, as fewer people participated in the labour market.

Note to readers

The LFS estimates are based on a sample, and are therefore subject to sampling variability. Estimates for smaller geographic areas or industries will have more variability. For an explanation of sampling variability of estimates, and how to use standard errors to assess this variability, consult the "Data quality" section of the publication Labour Force Information (71-001-X, free).

Unless otherwise stated, this release presents seasonally adjusted data, which facilitates comparisons by removing the effects of seasonal variations. For general information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonal adjustment and identifying economic trends.