Employers Battle Ongoing Labour Challenges in Face of Full Employment

Annual Labour Force Survey Highlights (2019)

The Labour Force Survey (LFS), conducted by Statistics Canada, is the only source of monthly employment estimates for Canadian industries. It collects monthly standard labour market indicators and is a major source of information on the working-age population.

Tourism HR Canada has finalized its review the estimates available for tourism industries.

The information presented here is drawn from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey. It shows rates of unemployment in Canada’s tourism sector by province and by industry group.

The data is seasonally unadjusted to allow comparisons between the tourism sector and the overall economy. As such, monthly and annual numbers for Canada’s entire labour force will differ from the seasonally adjusted numbers that are commonly reported.

Tourism Unemployment in 2019

The tourism sector’s unemployment rate rose slightly to 5.1% in 2019, up from a record low 4.9% in 2018. The tourism unemployment rate was over half a percentage point lower than the unemployment rate for the overall labour force, which reached a record low in 2019, at 5.7% (down from 5.8% in 2018).

Annual Unemployment:

Tourism unemployment was at its lowest in September (4.5%), followed closely by October and December (4.6%)—surprising, as tourism unemployment tends to rise throughout the fall and winter due to seasonal variability.

Monthly Trends

Tourism is made up of 29 individual industries assembled into five industry groups. The accommodations industry group had the highest annual unemployment rate in 2019, at 6.9%, while the transportation industry group had the lowest, at 2.6%.

The accommodations and recreation and entertainment industry groups showed the greatest monthly variability, with accommodations starting the year with 9.6% unemployment in January but dropping to 3.4% in July, while recreation and entertainment varied from 8.7% to 4.6% unemployment depending on the month.

Provincial Trends

Regionally, the highest rates of unemployment occurred in the eastern regions of Canada. Prince Edward Island experienced the highest annual tourism unemployment rate, at 10.1%, while British Columbia experienced the lowest, at 3.2%.

The high annual unemployment rate in some provinces is largely the result of volatility in seasonal demand. For example, the tourism unemployment rate in Prince Edward Island dropped from 15.9% in January 2019 to 0.0% in July and August, swinging back up to 17.1% in November. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador showed similar volatility. In comparison, the tourism unemployment rate in British Columbia had fewer volatile swings, marking a low of 2.4% in July and a high of 4.4% in September.

Annual Tourism Unemployment Rate by Province:

Long-Term Trends

While this year marks a slight increase to tourism unemployment levels, the annual unemployment rate in tourism has been consistently dropping since 2009, save for another small increase in 2014. Prior to 2009, the tourism sector had reached low unemployment rates of 6.0% in 2007 and 6.2% in 2008. Due to the worldwide economic downturn, unemployment rates rocketed in 2009. Tourism peaked at 7.6%, while the overall labour force reached 8.3%. Both rates have trended lower since that time, with the tourism sector maintaining a consistently lower unemployment rate ever since.

Part-Time & Full-Time Employment

Job growth has occurred among both full-time and part-time tourism positions, with part-time positions growing slightly faster than full-time. In 2000, part-time positions made up 32.7% of tourism jobs; they had grown to make up 37.0% of tourism jobs by 2019.

Share of Total Tourism Employment:

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You can get detailed labour force survey data by occupation and region through our Rapid reSearch tool, hosted on emerit.ca. Sign up for an account to gain access to the data.


canada_govThis project is funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program

The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

Source: Adapted from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey. This does not constitute an endorsement by Statistics Canada of this product.