StatsCan Depicts Employment Trends During Past Year

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Editor’s Note: We don’t publish this with the intention that you should reconsider your choice of academic program or change your career path, but simply as a snapshot of what is happening in the Canadian employment marketplace at this moment in time.

It is a review of national labour trends during 2019, released by Statistics Canada.

Contributed by Statistics Canada

The following analysis focuses on changes from December 2018 to December 2019.

In the 12 months to December 2019, employment in Canada increased by 320,000 or 1.7 percent, a faster pace than that observed over the same period in 2018 (+1.1 percent). The growth was spread across the first three quarters of the year, and was mostly the result of gains in full-time work (+283,000 or +1.9 percent).

During the year, the unemployment rate declined to 5.4 percent in May, a record low since comparable data became available in January 1976. At the end of 2019, the rate was 5.6 percent, the same as in December 2018.

Full-time employment growth in Canada driven by gains in Ontario

Compared with December 2018, employment in Ontario increased 243,000 (+3.3 percent), the largest year-over-year increase for the month of December since 1987. Employment gains were mostly in full-time work (+227,000 or +3.8 percent). There were increases in a number of industries, including professional, scientific and technical services, as well as health care and social assistance. In contrast, there were fewer Ontarians employed in manufacturing in December 2019 compared with December 2018.

Employment increased in Quebec by 63,000 (+1.5 percent) from December 2018 to December 2019, with nearly all the growth in full-time work. The gains were among youth aged 15 and 24 and people aged 55 and over. The unemployment rate in Quebec was little changed compared with December 2018, though it declined to 4.7 percent in August, a record low since comparable data became available in January 1976.

In the 12 months to December 2019, employment increased by 6,700 (+1.5 percent) in Nova Scotia, led by health care and social assistance as well as manufacturing. At the same time, there were declines in information, culture and recreation. Over half of the employment growth in the province was among youth. After declining to a low of 6.2 percent in March, the unemployment rate in Nova Scotia increased to 7.9 percent in December.

The number of people employed in New Brunswick increased by 5,000 (+1.4 percent) on a year-over-year basis, driven by those aged 55 and over. By the end of 2019, nearly one-quarter (24.6 percent) of the province's labour force was aged 55 and over, compared with 9.3 percent at the end of 1999. Construction and public administration were the largest contributors to employment growth since December 2018, while accommodation and food services followed a downward trend throughout the year. Over the 12 months in 2019, the unemployment rate in the province declined by 0.9 percentage points to 7.5 percent.

Prince Edward Island ended the year with employment growth of 4,600 or 6.1 percent, the largest year-over-year increase since comparable data became available in 1976. Led by construction, employment growth was observed in several industries, but was tempered by a decline in natural resources.

The number of people employed in Newfoundland and Labrador decreased by 5,900 (-2.6 percent) on a year-over-year basis, with most of the decline in December. Decreases in employment over the 12 months were observed in health care and social assistance, as well as in natural resources. At 11.8 percent, the unemployment rate in December 2019 was little changed compared with December 2018.

Employment in British Columbia was little changed in the 12 months to December 2019, following four consecutive years of gains. The unemployment rate increased 0.4 percentage points to 4.8 percent, but remained the lowest among the provinces.

Overall employment in Alberta was essentially unchanged on a year-over-year basis, as fewer people were working full-time and more were working part-time. The unemployment rate increased 0.6 percentage points over the year to 7.0 percent in December 2019. While the number of those aged 15 to 24 in the labour force increased, employment for this age group remained relatively stable. This led the youth unemployment rate to rise 3.9 percentage points to 14.7 percent. Both the employment level and the unemployment rate were little changed among the core-aged population (25 to 54 years of age).

The number of employed Manitobans held steady throughout the year, with part-time gains being offset by full-time declines. The unemployment rate in the province fell 1.0 percentage point to 5.0 percent.

In Saskatchewan, employment was little changed over the 12 months in 2019 following an increase in 2018. Gains in the services-producing sector were offset by losses in the goods-producing sector. The unemployment rate was little changed at 5.7 percent.


From December 2018 to December 2019, employment increased for both young men and women, as well as for men of core working age (25 to 54) and for older men (55 and over).

Youth employment gains totalled 115,000 (+4.8 percent) over the year, driven by gains in part-time work. Most of the employment growth occurred earlier in the year. The youth unemployment rate reached an all-time low of 10.0 percent in May before ending the year at 11.1 percent, the same rate as at the end of 2018.

Employment among men aged 55 and over increased by 107,000 (+4.8 percent) on a year-over-year basis. Their unemployment rate was 5.0 percent in December. Employment for women in the same age group was little changed in 2019, and their unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.6 percent.

Employment for core-aged men increased 67,000 or 1.1 percent, in line with the population growth of this demographic group. Employment for core-aged women was little changed, as gains in full-time work were offset by declines in part-time work.


In the 12 months to December, employment growth in Canada was driven by the services-producing sector (+367,000 or +2.5 percent), while there was a decline in the goods-producing sector (-47,000 or -1.2 percent). The number of employees in both the private and public sectors increased in 2019, while self-employment was little changed.

In the services-producing sector, there were notable increases in professional, scientific and technical services (+86,000); wholesale and retail trade (+77,000); health care and social assistance (+75,000); and finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing (+75,000). Most of the growth in the services sector was in Ontario (+245,000).

Employment fell in the goods-producing sector, reflecting declines in manufacturing (-40,000), natural resources (-29,000) and utilities (-15,000), which were tempered by an increase in construction (+29,000). From December 2018 to December 2019, employment in manufacturing declined in Ontario and British Columbia, while employment in natural resources declined in five provinces, most notably Alberta and British Columbia.