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Canada's Changing Labour Force, 2006 Census: Overview of Canada's changing labour force

Between 2001 and 2006, total employment in Canada increased at an annual average rate of 1.7%, the fastest rate increase among the Group of Seven (G7) nations. Italy's growth rate of 1.2% was second followed by France and the United States of America. According to data from the Labour Force Survey, Canada's strong employment growth has continued beyond 2006.

Figure 1 Average annual employment growth, Canada and the Group of Seven (G7) and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries

The growth in employment reflected the nation's economic performance. During this five-year period, gross domestic product (GDP) rose at an annual average rate of 2.7% a year.

Employment rose in every part of the country. However, growth was strongest in the West, especially in Alberta and British Columbia.

On an industry basis, the fastest growth in employment occurred in the mining and oil and gas extraction industry, where employment increased at an average pace of 7.5% a year, nearly four times the national average. Alberta alone accounted for 70% of the employment growth in this industry.

With low interest rates spurring activity, growth in the larger construction sector was a strong 4.5% on average per year. During the five-year period, this sector added an estimated 196,200 workers to its ranks.

On the downside, manufacturing shed 136,700 jobs during the five-year period, equivalent to a 1.4% decline per year. This occurred in the wake of the rapidly appreciating Canadian dollar and shifts in production from Canada to other countries

These manufacturing losses were concentrated in Central Canada. Ontario incurred declines in employment in the computer manufacturing and telecommunications sector, while both Ontario and Quebec experienced declines in textile employment.

On the other hand, employment increased by 1.8% per year in retail trade. As a result, the gap between employment in retail and manufacturing closed rapidly during the five-year period. In 2001, about 373,900 more people were employed in manufacturing than in retail trade. By 2006, this gap had shrunk to about 81,400. Manufacturing and retail trade are the country's two largest employers.

Data for occupations largely reflected these industry developments. One of the fastest growing occupations over the five years was in the construction industry. More specifically, the number of trades helpers and labourers increased by 52,300, or 57.2%, to 143,900 in 2006.

In the textile industry, the number of sewing machine operators plunged by 18,300, or 32.7%. In the steel industry, there was also a decline in the number of metal fabricators, including steel workers over the five year period.

According to data on labour mobility, 563,000 workers, or 3.4% of the total workforce, moved to a different province or territory between 2001 and 2006. Mobility rates were highest in the territories and Alberta. In 2006, the mining and oil and gas extraction and public administration industries had the highest shares of interprovincial movers in their workforces.

Census data also showed that the aging of Canada's labour force continued between 2001 and 2006. In 2006, workers aged 55 and older accounted for 15.3% of the total labour force, up from 11.7% in 2001. This was the result of the aging of the baby boomers, and the increased tendency for older workers to participate in the labour force.

The median age of the labour force surpassed 40 years for the first time, rising from 39.5 years in 2001 to 41.2 years in 2006. The median is the point where half are older and half are younger.

Unemployment rates among Aboriginal peoples remained relatively high in 2006, but were down from 2001. Employment rates among the various Aboriginal groups rose between 2001 and 2006. At the same time, in most provinces and territories, the gap between their employment rates and those of their non-Aboriginal counterparts shrank.

Among recent immigrants (those who arrived in Canada since 2001) of core working age (ages 25 to 54), the share who were employed was 67.0%, up 3.6 percentage points from 2001. This was faster than the gain among Canadian born, causing the gap between the employment rates of recent immigrants and the Canadian born to shrink from 17.5 percentage points in 2001 to 15.4 percentage points by 2006.

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