Briefing Note on Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey Data – May 1, 2020

Home COVID-19Briefing Note on Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey Data – May 1, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact all aspects of life in Canada, NWPB has prepared this briefing note in advance of Statistics Canada’s release of updated Labour Force Survey data on May 8, 2020.

Data from the March 2020 Labour Force Survey demonstrated the preliminary employment impact of the COVID-19 virus. Therein, 1,060,500 Canadians who were employed in February were not working in March. Niagara’s share of these employment losses totaled 11,000 people, or 5.2% of Niagara’s labour force in February of 2020.

Based on data collected from a variety of sources, there is little reason for optimism over the upcoming May Labour Force Survey release, which will provide data on employment trends for April, 2020. Unemployment is likely to increase, and if Niagara follows the provincial trend, many more people will leave the labour force entirely than continue to look for work. To prepare for this data release, and some of the technical language inherent to the Labour Force Survey, 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”.

Expectations for April’s Data

Increased unemployment and falling employment rates

For the week of April 20, 2020 there were 1,320,000 applications for the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB).[1] Since its roll out, there were 7,280,000 unique applications to the CERB program. For context, there were 18,917,600 employed people in Canada in February 2020, which fell by 1,060,500 in March. While it should not be assumed that one CERB application equates to one unemployed person – particularly given that the Canada Revenue Agency will only be reviewing CERB recipients after the crisis passes – the volume of applicants is a clear indication of the genuine need of individuals at this time.

New data from Statistics Canada show that 38.9% of Ontario employers laid off some part of their workforce in March of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.[2] Locally, the Niagara COVID-19 Business Impact Survey, which surveyed more than 2,200 employers in Niagara, showed that 66% of survey respondents reported staffing reductions due to COVID-19.[3]

On April 15, 2020, the Conference Board of Canada published the Canadian overview to its Spring 2020 Economic Forecast.[4] While this publication was optimistic that Canada would see in fast recovery from the economic and employment challenges created by COVID-19, it also estimated that 2,800,000 million Canadians would lose employment before the recovery begins.

What is Niagara’s share of that 2,800,000? Ontario’s share of national employment losses between February and March 2020 was 41.2%. Assuming that ratio holds true for the balance of this pandemic, and in consideration of the St. Catharines-Niagara Census Metropolitan Area housing 2.7% of Ontario’s workforce (based on 2019 annual data), Niagara might expect to see an additional 30,887 unemployed people based on the Conferences Board’s national estimate.[5]

What to do in Uncertain Times

However April’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.

[1]: Canada Emergency Response Benefit Statistics –

[2]: Statistics Canada, Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, Table 33-10-0232-01

[3]: Niagara Economic Rapid Response Team, Niagara COVID-19 Business Impact Survey

[4]: The Conference Board of Canada, Provincial Outlook Spring 2020-Preliminary Forecast –

[5]: Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey Table 14-10-0017-01, Table 14-10-0090-01, and Table 14-10-0096-01.

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