Briefing Note on Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey Data – April 7, 2020

Home COVID-19Briefing Note on Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey Data – April 7, 2020

The COVID-19 Coronavirus represents an unprecedented economic and employment disruption. On April 9, 2020, Statistics Canada will release new data for its monthly Labour Force Survey, which will provide us with some local insights on the state of the labour force in March, 2020.

Whatever these data show us, it is clear that things will not be business as usual. We know that during the week of March 20, 2020, the Government of Canada received over 500,000 employment insurance applications. A week later, that number rose closer to 1,000,000 applications.

While there is no reason to assume that Niagara will be spared from this employment disruption, it remains to be seen how these changes will impact our local data. Will it drive up unemployment? Will it reduce labour force participation? Will it see more people driven out of the labour force? To prepare for this data release, NWPB has developed this briefing note to provide a breakdown on the meaning of these key terms, and how they can help Niagara’s residents better understand the current situation.

EmployedAny individual who either has a job or is engaged in self-employment is considered employed. Since no person aged 14 years or younger can legally work in Canada, the labour force survey only looks at people aged 15 years or older.
UnemployedAny individual who is neither currently employed nor engaged in self-employment, but is actively looking for work is considered unemployed.
This also includes any individual who has been temporarily laid off.
Labour ForceThe labour force is, quite simply, the total of all employed and unemployed people.
Not in the Labour ForceAnyone who is both not employed and not looking for work is considered to be not in the labour force. This includes full-time students or retired individuals.
Anyone engaged in unpaid family care is also included in this category.
Participation RateThe percentage of a working age population (i.e. aged 15 years or older) that is in the labour force.
Employment RateThe percentage of a working age population that is employed.
Unemployment RateThe percentage of people in the labour force that is unemployed.

Source: Statistics Canada. “Guide to the Labour Force Survey, 2018”. Retrieved from

Expectations for March’s Data

Given increasing employment insurance claims, and preliminary reports of layoffs from local employers, there are two likely scenarios we are expecting to see in March’s labour force survey data.

Scenario 1: An increase in the unemployment rate

A surge in the number of Niagara residents who have been laid off is likely to drive up the local unemployment rate. Since individuals who have been laid off due to COVID-19 are expecting a recall at some point in the future, and may be looking for interim employment, they would still be considered part of the labour force.

Scenario 2: A decrease in the participation rate

If unemployed individuals who are actively seeking work feel discouraged in their ability to secure a job amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they may opt to end job search activities. Should this happen in significant numbers, NWPB would expect to see a decrease in the participation rate. Similarly, if individuals who have been laid off opt for early retirement or otherwise indicate they do not intend to return to work, we would expect to see a decline in the participation rate.

What to do in Uncertain Times

However March’s data present themselves, the coming months are likely to prove challenging for all Niagara residents. Individuals experiencing employment disruptions, as well as employers who are still looking to hire, can access resources and support from Niagara’s Employment Ontario service providers. Contact information for a service provider near you can be found through this link.

For all inquiries please contact Vivian Kinnaird.

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