Eye on Employment: April 2019 Edition

Posted in News, Eye on Employment

Eye on Employment: April 2019 Edition

The Eye on Employment is NWPB’s monthly breakdown of the latest data from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey. In this document, we will provide you with a summary of changes in local labour market indicators, offer comparisons to historical benchmarks, and show how seasonality affects employment in Niagara.

First, a foreword on our source: Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey or LFS. The LFS is a robust tool that provides us with a considerable amount of data. At its core, however, it exists to sort Canadians into one of three groups: people who are employed, people who are not employed but are looking for work, and people who are not in the labour force. This is a people-focused survey, and the important thing to remember is that a count of people is not a count of jobs. People might do a job, either for an employer or through self-employment, but the LFS is counting the people, not the job. Bearing this in mind, let’s turn our eye toward employment

Monthly and Yearly Overview

Table 1: Niagara – Current and Historical Trends – Seasonally Unadjusted

Labour force characteristics Feb 2018 March 2018 2018 Jan 2019 Feb 2019 March 2019
Labour force 208,500 209,300 215,800 213,000 212,200 207,600
Employment 196,800 195,400 201,700 199,100 197,400 192,400
Full-time employment 149,200 147,000 153,100 154,000 153,200 149,500
Part-time employment 47,500 48,400 48,600 45,100 44,100 42,900
Unemployment 11,700 13,800 14,200 13,900 14,800 15,200
Unemployment rate 5.6% 6.6% 6.6% 6.5% 7.0% 7.3%
Participation rate 59.5% 59.7% 61.2% 60.1% 59.8% 58.4%
Employment rate 56.2% 55.7% 57.2% 56.1% 55.6% 54.1%

Month-over-month, we can see 4,600 fewer people either working or looking for work (a decrease in the labour force) between February 2019 and March 2019. There were 3,700 fewer people in full-time employment and 11,200 fewer people in part-time employment in March compared to February. Compared to this time last year, March 2019 reports 3,000 fewer people with employment than was observed in March 2018. This change was largely attributed to decreases in part-time employment. Specifically, March 2019 saw 2,500 more people employed in a full-time capacity than was observed in February 2018. With respect to part-time employment, there were 5,500 fewer people employed in a part-time capacity in March 2019 than in March 2018.

Niagara’s unemployment rate increased from 7.0% in February 2019 to 7.3% in March 2019. This increase occurred alongside the month-over-month employment rate decreasing from 55.6% to 54.1%. Niagara’s labour market participation rate also decreased from 59.8% to 58.4%. In an ideal state of affairs, we would see decreases in the unemployment rate with increases in the participation and employment rate.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the data in Table 1 are seasonally unadjusted figures. That means factors like holidays, expected employment slowdowns or pickups due to weather, and other factors that can be reasonably be predicted to influence employment are not accounted for in these data. Table 2 shows what the labour force looks like when we adjust for seasonality.

Table 2: Niagara – Current and Historical Trends – Seasonally Adjusted

Seasonal Labour Force Characteristics Feb 2018 March 2018 2018 Jan 2019 Feb 2019 March 2019
Labour force 211,900 213,800 215,800 214,700 215,700 213,000
Employment 200,700 201,600 201,700 200,200 201,000 199,000
Unemployment 11,200 12,300 14,200 14,500 14,700 14,000
Unemployment rate 5.3% 5.8% 6.6% 6.8% 6.8% 6.6%
Participation rate 60.5% 61.0% 61.2% 60.5% 60.8% 59.9%
Employment rate 57.3% 57.5% 57.2% 56.4% 56.6% 56.0%

Table 2 shows that there were 2,700 fewer people employed in Niagara between February and March 2019, which follows the trend seen in the unadjusted data. When we look at the unemployment, participation, and employment rates, the month-over-month adjusted comparisons also show some similar trends compared to the unadjusted figures. The adjusted data indicate that the unemployment rate fell from 6.8% to 6.6%. At the same time the employment rate decreased from 56.6% to 56.0% and the participation rate decreased from 60.8% to 59.9%.

Given some of the differences between the adjusted and unadjusted datasets, one might ask which of these figures is correct and/or should be used when reporting these statistics. The answer is that both are equally valid. Both measures are essential tools to understanding labour force trends in Niagara. In this case, these trends would suggest that even when compensating for predictable and seasonable factors (e.g. expected and historical seasonal slowdowns in Niagara’s economy) we still see fewer people in employment, but also fewer people seeing work. This rather unique state of affairs, invites some additional context.

Recognizing that there were no major employer closures that would offer the easiest account for the decreased employment in Niagara, and that the adjusted data shows fewer people actively looking for work, it is possible there is a demographic explanation for some of the changes in March’s labour market indicators.

When employment figures are broken down by age group, we see that 2,300 of Niagara’s 5,000 employment exits between February and March were among people age 55 to 64. At the same time, the number of people age 55 to 64 who reported being neither employed nor looking for work in March of 2019 increased by 2,000 compared to the previous month. These data suggest a trend that is indicative of retirements or some other employment exit that did not immediately result in individuals seeking employment. If Niagara were experiencing large-scale job losses as the cause of the decrease in employment, the data should show similar increases in unemployment. As seen in tables 1 and 2, those increases did not occur.

The Youth Lens

LFS data also allow us a snapshot of youth (defined as people age 15 to 24) employment in Niagara. Once again these data do not account for seasonality.

Table 3: Niagara – Current and Historical Trends – Youth Age 15 to 24 – Seasonally Unadjusted

Labour force characteristics Feb 2018 March 2018 2018 Jan 2019 Feb 2019 March 2019
Labour force 25,000 28,300 34,300 35,800 34,900 32,900
Employment 22,000 24,400 29,900 32,100 31,000 29,200
Full-time employment 9,300 9,200 15,400 18,400 17,200 15,200
Part-time employment 12,700 15,100 14,500 13,700 13,800 14,000
Unemployment 2,900 3,900 4,400 3,700 3,900 3,700
Unemployment rate 11.6% 13.8% 12.8% 10.3% 11.2% 11.2%
Participation rate 59.8% 63.9% 68.7% 63.3% 62.9% 62.3%
Employment rate 52.6% 55.1% 59.9% 56.7% 55.9% 55.3%

Here we see 1,800 fewer youth working in March compared to January. There were 2,000 fewer youth working in a full-time capacity, and the number of youth working in a part-time capacity increased by 200. March saw the youth unemployment hold steady at 11.2%, despite the employment changes. The participation rate decreased from 62.9% to 62.3%. Similarly, the employment rate decreased from 55.9% to 55.3%. Compared to this time last year, March 2019 reports 6,000 more youth employed in a full-time capacity and 1,100 fewer youth working in a part-time capacity.

Similar to the general labour market data, the scenario for youth does not suggest an increase in youth joblessness. Despite 1,800 fewer youth reporting employment, there was a decline in the month-over-month number of unemployed youth. Month-over-month job losses would produce an increase in both the number of people reporting unemployment and the overall unemployment rate.


We now offer the Eye on Employment in a downloadable PDF format. You can download the PDF by clicking this link.

Would you like to know more? NWPB is ready for your questions. Reach out to NWPB’s CEO, Mario De Divitiis.