Census 'Labour force activity' concepts have remained fairly consistent since 1971. However, some changes in the questions asked, as well as some minor conceptual changes, have been introduced over time. These differences should be taken into consideration whenever data from two or more census years are being compared. Variables which take into account as many of these differences as possible are available to users wishing to do historical comparisons of labour force data back to 1971. For more information, refer to the definition Labour market activities: Historical labour force activity (based on the 1971 concepts).Population
Since 1981, labour force activity data are reported for the population 15 years of age and over, excluding institutional residents. In 1976 and 1971, institutional residents were included in the 'Not in the labour force' category.Employed
Since 1971, the following persons have been considered as 'Employed':
In 1971, data were obtained from three separate questions. Female farm labourers who were unpaid family workers and who 'helped without pay' for less than 20 hours a week were excluded from the 'Employed' category and classified as 'Not in the labour force'. As well, in 1971, persons who indicated that they were both 'absent from a job' and 'looking for work' were considered 'Unemployed'.
In 1976, female farm labourers who worked less than 20 hours of unpaid work a week were classified as employed. In addition, persons who were both 'absent from a job' and 'looking for work' were now included in the 'Employed' group.
In 1981, only one question on number of hours worked in the reference week was asked. Questions to identify persons who were on temporary lay-off or absent from their job or business were also modified. Persons who were absent from work because of training courses had to be paid to be considered as absent from work.
The identification of the unemployed has undergone several modifications since 1971. In 1971, the 'Unemployed' category consisted of two groups: persons who looked for work in the reference week and persons who were on temporary lay-off during the reference week. According to the 1971 Census Guide, respondents were to mark 'Yes' to the 'Looking for work' question if they would have looked for work, but did not because they were temporarily ill or believed that no work was available in the community. The guide also instructed respondents to include themselves on lay-off only if they had been in that situation for 30 days or less.
In 1976, two new questions were added to the questionnaire in order to determine unemployment status. The first question asked whether the respondents were available for work in the reference week. According to the census guide, persons still in school, those who already had a job, were temporarily ill or who had personal or family responsibilities, were to consider themselves unavailable. Persons unavailable for work were classified as 'Not in the labour force'. The 'Availability' question was only asked of persons who looked for work in the reference week. The second question asked respondents if they had a new job to start at a future date. In addition to these new questions, a new processing restriction was applied. Persons on lay-off or with a new job to start, who were in full-time attendance at elementary or secondary school at any time since September 1975, were considered unavailable for work. Therefore, in 1976, persons were considered unemployed if they were 'on lay-off' or had a 'new job to start in the future' and were not in full-time attendance at elementary or secondary school. Persons who looked for work in the reference week and were available to work were also included in the 'Unemployed'.
In 1981, the reference period for the 'Looking for work' question was extended to the past four weeks instead of the reference week. The 'Availability' question was modified to include the detailed response categories previously included in the guide, i.e., already had a job; temporary illness or disability; personal or family responsibilities; going to school; or other reasons. Persons who marked 'going to school' or 'other reasons' were considered unavailable for work. The 'New job to start at a future date' question was reworded to specify that the job was to start within four weeks of the reference week. Questions to identify persons who were on temporary lay-off or absent from their job or business were also modified. The reference period for lay-off was extended to 26 weeks. As in 1976, persons on lay-off or with a new job to start were considered unavailable if they had been in full-time attendance at elementary or secondary school at any time since September 1980. Persons who looked for work and who responded 'going to school' or 'other reasons' were considered unavailable regardless of whether they were on lay-off or had a new job to start.
In 1986, the reference period for temporary lay-off was removed and the phrase 'from a job to which the person expects to return' was added to the questionnaire. The 1986 questionnaire did not include a question on school attendance. It was therefore not possible to apply the school attendance criterion to persons on lay-off or with a new job to start.
In 1991, the 'School attendance' question was once again included on the questionnaire. Furthermore, since 1991, persons on lay-off or with a new job to start or who looked for full-time work in the past 4 weeks and were in full-time attendance at elementary or secondary school were considered unavailable for work, and, therefore, not in the labour force.
In 2006, the question on school attendance was modified such that students attending school part time were no longer identified separately from full-time students. Therefore, in 2006, all students who were not employed and who attended elementary or secondary school at any time since September 2005 were considered unavailable for work and classified as 'Not in the labour force'.
Persons aged 15 and over who are not 'Employed' or 'Unemployed' are considered 'Not in the Labour Force'. The main changes over time for this group are:
Both the census and the Labour Force Survey (LFS) collect data on the labour market activity of persons aged 15 and over, excluding institutional residents.
However, there are a number of fundamental differences between the two surveys with respect to:
In the census, the method used for most respondents is self-enumeration; that is, people complete the questionnaire themselves. The LFS is administered by experienced interviewers using computer assisted interviewing techniques.2. Coverage
The census provides complete coverage of the Canadian population, including the households of diplomatic personnel and other Canadian government employees living outside Canada. The census also includes non-permanent residents (people who have a study or work permit, or who were refugee claimants).
The LFS includes non-permanent residents, but excludes persons living on reserves and other Indian settlements, full-time members of the armed forces and institutional residents. Households of diplomatic personnel and other Canadian government employees outside Canada are also excluded.
In most parts of Canada, every fifth household receives the full census questionnaire (Form 2B), containing the labour force activity questions. On Indian reserves and in northern and remote areas, all households receive the full questionnaire to improve the precision of the data for these populations.
The LFS is based on a sample of about 53,000 households in Canada.4. Reference period
The reference period for the census was the week of Sunday, May 7 to Saturday, May 13, 2006. The reference period for the May 2006 Labour Force Survey was the week of Sunday, May 14 to Saturday, May 20.5. Number of questions and their content
The census questionnaire includes five questions on labour market activities: number of hours worked for pay or in self-employment; temporary lay-off or absence from job or business; existence of definite arrangements to start a new job within the next four weeks; search for paid work (full-time or part-time) during the past four weeks; and availability to start a job during the last week if one had been available. There are three possible sequences of questions depending on the respondent's situation. For example, a respondent who reports having worked one or more hours during the reference week is not required to answer the other four questions.
The LFS contains a more extensive set of labour questions. The interview is computer-assisted, which makes it possible to tailor the sequence and content of the questions to the respondent. The method also provides the opportunity to clarify and correct responses as the interview progresses.
Because the LFS has more questions, the assignment of the labour force status can differ between the two surveys. Two examples of these differences are described below.
(a) Self-employed workers
In the census, self-employed workers who have no work during reference week and do not report working any hours or being absent from work would be classified as 'Unemployed' or 'Not in the labour force', depending on their responses to the other questions.
In the LFS, the same self-employed workers may be coded as 'Employed' if they attributed their absence to not having any work during the reference week. The census does not ask the reason for their absence.
(b) Persons on lay-off
In both the census and the LFS, persons on lay-off are classified as 'Unemployed' if they are available for work, or as 'Not in the labour force' if they are not available for work during the reference week.
According to the LFS, persons on lay-off have been temporarily released by their employers, because of business conditions. They must have a definite date to return to work, or an indication that they will be recalled in the future. The lay-off period must not exceed one year, and seasonal workers are not included in this category. According to the census, persons on lay-off expect to return to their jobs. No limit is specified for returning to work or for the duration of the lay-off. Seasonal workers are not explicitly excluded from this category.
For more information about the LFS, please consult the Guide to the Labour Force Survey, Catalogue no. 71-543. For further information about census data on labour force activity, please contact the census labour market analysts.