Tourism Reaches Record Low Unemployment: Annual Labour Force Survey Highlights

Tourism HR Canada has just released the latest on the tourism labour force across the country. The information presented here is drawn from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey.

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 2018

The tourism sector’s unemployment rate reached a record low of 4.9% in 2018, down from 5.3% in 2017. The tourism unemployment rate was almost a full percentage point lower than the unemployment rate for the overall labour force, which also reached a record low, at 5.8% (down from 6.3% in 2017).

Annual Unemployment:

In the final month of the year, the tourism unemployment rate was 4.1%, which is surprisingly low, as December tends to be a month in which tourism unemployment rises due to seasonal variability. In 2018, the unemployment rate for the tourism sector was in fact lowest in December, followed by July at 4.2%.

Monthly Trends

Tourism is made up of 29 individual industries assembled into five industry groups. The accommodation industry group had the highest annual unemployment rate in 2018, at 6.7%, while the transportation industry group had the lowest, at 2.7%.

The accommodation and recreation and entertainment industry groups showed the greatest monthly variability, with accommodation reaching 11.3% unemployment in March but dropping to 2.8% in July, while recreation and entertainment varied from 8.3% to 3.7% unemployment depending on the month.

Provincial Trends

Regionally, Prince Edward Island experienced the highest annual tourism unemployment rate, at 11.1%, while Alberta experienced the lowest, at 3.9%. This is a significant shift for Alberta, which saw tourism unemployment rates rise from 2.6% in 2014 to 5.3% in 2017.

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 close to 20.0% in April 2018 to 2.4% in July and 0.0% in August before swinging back up to 18.8% by December. New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador showed similar volatility. In comparison, the tourism unemployment rate in Ontario had fewer volatile swings, moving from a high of 5.7% in March to a low of 3.7% in October.

Annual Tourism Unemployment Rate by Province:

Long-Term Trends

The annual unemployment rate in tourism has been consistently dropping since 2009, save for a 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 37.5% of tourism jobs by 2018.

Share of Total Tourism Employment:

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.