Labour Market Information

Canadian Tourism Labour Market Snapshot

Overall, tourism employment grew (5.9%) over last month and the unemployment rate improved for all industry groups. There was also significant improvement in the unemployment rate across all industries when compared to the same month in 2019, 2020, and 2021. However, these data are artificially inflated by the decline in the overall size of the labour force from previous years.

A key observation this month is the positive growth in the May 2022 unemployment rate is deceptive. While the labour force continues to grow from its unprecedented lows during the COVID-19 pandemic, the total tourism labour force remains 203,000 workers short (or -9.2%) of the level it had in May 2019. Between April and May 2022, the size of the total tourism labour force grew by 4.6% (88,400 workers), but two industry groups—transportation and travel services—instead saw a decreased labour force this month: -1.6% (-5,600 workers) and -1.4% (-500 workers), respectively. This points to a significant labour shortage in the sector at a time when many of its industries are gearing up for a peak economic season.

Tourism Labour Force Grew by 4.6% in May 2022

Labour Force Survey data[1] released for May 2022 reveals that, at 2,010,000 workers, Canada’s tourism labour force[2] increased by 4.6% (88,400 workers) from last month and has seen a significant gain from May 2021—up 16.8% (or 288,600) from 1,721,400.[3]

While this is a very positive sign for the recovery of tourism’s labour force, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic persist as the tourism labour force remains 203,000 workers short of the sizeable pre-pandemic total of 2,213,000 from May 2019. Though positive changes in the monthly unemployment rate and employment gains in the accommodations, food and beverage services, and recreation and entertainment industries are evident this month, as the tourism sector looks toward recovery, the size of the labour force continues to be much smaller than the demand from employers.

In summary: a significant labour shortage remains at a time when many tourism industry groups are gearing up for a peak economic season.

May 2022 Tourism Employment = 9.7% of Canadian Workforce

With a total of 1,931,200 workers, tourism comprised 9.7% of total Canadian employment (19,836,400) for May 2022. Employment numbers have seen significant positive change for all industries this month, climbing by 5.9% or 107,300 workers from April (1,823,900). The most significant employment gains were in the accommodations and recreation and entertainment industries. Looking at the same month in previous years reveals that employment in the tourism sector has grown since May 2021 (up 24.4% overall) but continues to lag the levels seen pre-pandemic in May 2019 (-7.6%).

May 2022 Tourism Unemployment Rate = 3.9%

In May 2022, the unemployment rate in the tourism sector was at 3.9%, which is lower than the rate reported in May 2021 (5.9%) and lower than the previous month (April 2022) when the unemployment rate stood at 5.1%.

At 3.9%, tourism’s unemployment rate was well below Canada’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 5.1%. All tourism industry groups have reported lower unemployment rates than the same month last year.

On a provincial basis, tourism unemployment rates ranged from 3.3% in British Columbia to 13.3% in Prince Edward Island. The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for tourism in each province, with the exceptions of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Saskatchewan, were below the rates reported for the provincial economy.

The overall employment increase in May is due to increases in full-time employment. Part-time employment in the tourism sector declined sharply (-13,900) while full-time employment increased by 121,200 workers.

For a full look at the latest tourism workforce trends, please visit the Tourism Employment Tracker.


[1] SOURCE: Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, customized tabulations. Based on seasonally unadjusted data collected for the period of May to 21, 2022.

[2] The labour force comprises the total of number of individuals who reported being employed and unemployed (but actively looking for work) in the tourism industries.

[3] As defined by the Canadian Tourism Satellite Account. The NAICS industries included in the tourism sector are those that would cease to exist or operate at a significantly reduced level of activity as a direct result of an absence of tourism.

Canadian Tourism Labour Market Snapshot

Overall, tourism employment grew slightly (2.2%) from March to April and the unemployment rate improved for all industries except for the food & beverage services industry, which saw a slight uptick. Nevertheless, there was significant improvement in the unemployment rate across all industries when compared to the same month in 2020 and 2021. Likewise, the size of the tourism labour force saw positive gains, with an increase of 1.8% over March to 1.9 million—a significant gain from April 2021 (up 13.2%, from 1.7 million).

Labour Force Survey data[1] released for April 2022 reveals that, at 1,921,600 workers, Canada’s tourism labour force has seen a significant gain from April 2021—up 13.2% from 1,697,300.[2] While this is a very positive sign that workers are returning to tourism occupations, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic persist as the tourism labour force remains 217,500 workers short of the sizeable pre-pandemic total of 2,139,100 (April 2019).

As such, though many indicators (such as positive changes in the monthly unemployment rate and significant employment gains in the accommodations, transportation, and travel services industries) show indications of imminent workforce recovery, labour shortages have been a pressing challenge for the industry in the first four months of 2022.

April 2022 Tourism Employment = 9.2% of Canadian Workforce

Tourism employment comprised 9.4% of the total Canadian labour force for April 2022—slightly above the previous month (9.2%). Tourism employment increased by 39,400 (or 2.2%) from March. Total employment now sits at 1,823,900 (up from 1,784,500 the previous month).

April’s employment numbers saw significant positive change for all industries except food & beverage services (which saw a slight decline of 0.8%). The most significant employment gains were in the accommodations, transportation, and travel services industries. Looking at the same month in previous years, employment in the tourism industries has grown since April 2021 (up 21.1% overall) but continues to lag behind the levels seen pre-pandemic in April 2019 (-9.5%).

April 2022 Tourism Unemployment Rate = 5.1% (less than half of the rate in April 2021)

In April 2022, the unemployment rate in the tourism sector was at 5.1%—lower than the previous month when the unemployment rate stood at 5.4% and slightly better than Canada’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 5.5%. All industries except for food & beverage services saw a lower unemployment rate than the previous month. All tourism industry groups have reported significantly lower unemployment rates than the same month last year.

On a provincial basis, tourism unemployment rates ranged from 4.2% in Quebec to 15.9% in Prince Edward Island. The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for tourism in each province, with the exceptions of Quebec, Ontario, and Alberta, were above the rates reported for the provincial economy.

The overall employment increase in April is due to increases in full-time employment. Part-time employment in the tourism sector declined sharply (-13,400), while full-time employment increased by 52,800 workers.

For a full look at the latest tourism workforce trends, please visit the Tourism Employment Tracker.


[1] SOURCE: Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, customized tabulations. Based on seasonally unadjusted data collected for the period of April 10 to 16, 2022.

[2] As defined by the Canadian Tourism Satellite Account.  The NAICS industries included in the tourism sector are those that would cease to exist or operate at a significantly reduced level of activity as a direct result of an absence of tourism.

Canadian Tourism Labour Market Snapshot

Overall, tourism employment sees an uptick as the sector builds momentum toward recovery in the coming months; however, growth is hindered by employment losses in the accommodations industry and a higher than anticipated unemployment rate in transportation.

Labour Force Survey data released for March 2022 showed positive signs toward industry workforce recovery.[1] [2] Canada’s tourism sector had 1,886,900 members in its labour force,[3] hovering slightly above the 1,878,900 participants that made up the labour force as the first significant impacts of the pandemic were felt by the industry that same month in 2020.

However, when considering the robust tourism labour force pre-pandemic (a sizeable 2,117,700 workers in March 2019), it remains clear that labour shortages remain across the country and throughout the tourism industries, though indicators—such as the tourism unemployment rate holding strong in March—reveal that momentum is building toward sector recovery.

March 2022 Tourism Employment = 9.2% of Canadian Workforce

Tourism employment comprised 9.2% of the total Canadian workforce for March 2022, hovering at the same level as the previous month (9.1%).  Tourism employment increased slightly by 28,500 (or 1.6%) from the previous month. Total employment now sits at 1,784,500 (up from 1,756,000 in February).

Employment numbers have seen significant positive change since March 2021 (mid-pandemic) for all industries except for travel services. While employment in the tourism industries is still behind the levels seen pre-pandemic (March 2019), the travel services workforce remains one of the hardest hit.

For the second straight month, the unemployment rate in the tourism sector stood at 5.4%, which is below Canada’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 5.7% and 7.6 percentage points lower than the rate reported for tourism in March 2021 (13.0%). All tourism industry groups have reported lower unemployment rates than the same month last year. However, both the accommodations and transportation industries saw higher unemployment rates than last month.

On a provincial basis, tourism unemployment rates ranged from a low of 3.8% in British Columbia to 19.0% in Prince Edward Island. The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for tourism in each province, except for Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Manitoba, were below the rates reported for the provincial economy.

The employment increase in March is due to increases in full-time employment. Part-time employment in the tourism sector declined slightly (-4,400) after major gains the previous months, while full-time employment increased by 33,000.

Looking Forward

The first two months of 2022 have brought positive indications that employees are returning to tourism occupations. However, the drop in employment in the accommodations industry implies that a high level of volatility remains. Further to this, the suppressed employment numbers in travel services that have persisted throughout the pandemic failed to see positive movement this past month, though external factors, such as the public health measures that had been in place across most parts of the country, are lessening their impact on tourism activity and global research reveals positive signs that travellers are eager to return to tourism destinations.[4]

As the tourism sector looks toward spring 2022, workforce recovery is top of mind for employers and industry stakeholders. As travellers begin to return in the coming months, we should anticipate a heightened need for tourism workers across all five of the key tourism industries.

For a full look at the latest tourism workforce trends, please visit the Tourism Employment Tracker.


[1] SOURCE: Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, customized tabulations. Based on seasonally unadjusted data data collected for the period of March 20 to March 29, 2022.

[2] As defined by the Canadian Tourism Satellite Account.  The NAICS industries included in the tourism sector are those that would cease to exist or operate at a significantly reduced level of activity as a direct result of an absence of tourism.

[3] The labour force is the sum of employed and unemployed persons.

[4]  For example, please see the recent report Global Survey on Perspectives of Service Delivery and Traveller Priorities by Twenty31 Consulting Inc.

Canadian Tourism Monthly Snapshot

Tourism added 188,700 jobs, unemployment rates fall but an overall labour force shortage remains

While declines in the size of the overall tourism labour force persist, tourism employees continued to return to work and find available employment opportunities this past month.

Seasonally unadjusted data released for February 2022 shows that, at 1,856,800 workers, Canada’s tourism labour force still falls short of the 2,152,000 workers that made up the industry pre-pandemic this same month in 2020.

While the unemployment rate in the tourism sector was at 5.4%—which is 10.1 percentage points lower than the rate reported in Feb 2021 (15.5%), and lower than the previous month (January 2022) when the unemployment rate stood at 11.9%—tourism continues to face an unprecedented labour shortage as public health measures to stem the COVID-19 Omicron variant remained in place in many provinces during what is already a typically low period of economic activity for the industry.

At 5.4%, tourism’s unemployment rate was slightly below Canada’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 5.7%, but higher than before the holiday season when the tourism unemployment rate stood at 5.2% for December 2021.

All tourism industry groups have reported lower unemployment rates than the same month last year.

Tourism Unemployment Rates by Industry Feb. 2021 vs. Feb. 2022 (seasonally unadjusted)

On a provincial basis, tourism unemployment rates ranged from 4.0% in Alberta to 14.3% in Prince Edward Island.

The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for tourism in each province, with the exceptions of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Manitoba, were below the rates reported for the provincial economy.

Tourism Sector vs. Total Labour Force Unemployment Rates by Province (seasonally unadjusted)

Employment Numbers

Tourism employment comprised 9.1% of the total Canadian labour force for February 2022. Tourism employment increased by 188,700 (or 12%) from the previous month. Total employment now sits at 1,756,000 (up from 1,567,300 in January).

For the Canadian economy as a whole, seasonally unadjusted employment grew by 388,100.

The employment increases in both tourism and the broader economy were due to increases in part-time employment.  Part-time employment in the tourism industry increased by 131,000 (or 21.2%), while full-time employment increased by 57,600 (or 6.1%).

Month-over-Month Employment Change, Full- and Part-Time Employment (seasonally unadjusted)

Full-time employment change (x 1,000) Part-time employment change (x 1,000)
Tourism 57.6 131
Accommodations 0 9.6
Food and Beverage 25.2 58.6
Recreation and Entertainment 38.5 49.8
Transportation -1.8 11.1
Travel Services -4.2 2

Looking Toward Spring 2022

It is typical for seasonally unadjusted employment indicators to show signs of volatility in the winter months; however, the first two months of 2022 brought positive signs that employees are returning to tourism occupations.

As the industry gears up for warmer weather and as restrictions are eased by several provincial governments in March, more than ever, local demand is going to be an important success factor for the tourism sector this spring.

For a full look at the tourism labour market and economic indicators, visit the Tourism Employment Tracker.


SOURCE: Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, customized tabulations. Based on data for the week ending March 1, 2022.

 

Globally, the tourism sector is facing a massive shortage of trained staff. How aware are travellers of this and how does this impact their travel choices?

Join Tourism HR Canada for an excusive webinar featuring tourism experts Twenty31 Consulting, who will delve into the recently released report Global Survey on Perspectives of Service Delivery and Traveller Priorities. The report, partially funded by the Government of Canada, details the results of a recent survey of 800 travel consumers in each of nine key global outbound travel markets for Canadian tourism: Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, UK, and US.

Explore the delicate balance many tourism businesses are facing as they plan for reopening and recovery in 2022 and beyond: trying to provide safe, appropriately priced tourism experiences while also meeting the service expectations of travellers.

Register to learn more about:
• Global trends and impact of COVID-19
• Traveller influences
• Recent travel behaviour
• Travel ambitions
• Traveller perspectives on travel service issues post-COVID
• Perceptions and impact of service delivery in Canada vs. other destinations
• Impact of familiarity with service issues
• Country attitudinal profiles

The webinar will take place Thursday, April 7, at 11:00 AM Eastern. Click here to register.

Statistics Canada’s latest Labour Force Survey data is from the week of January 9 to 15, 2022. The surge of Omicron over this period led to increased business closures and a loss of 200,000 jobs across the economy (based on seasonally adjusted data; unadjusted data shows a decline of 484,900 jobs from December to January[1]).

Tourism jobs were most impacted, with declines largely driven by Ontario and Quebec. Youth (15 to 24 years old) and women 25 to 54 years old were most impacted by the forced closures—key demographics that make up the tourism workforce.

Though the tourism industry saw unexpected employment gains in November 2021 which held steady as we headed into the holiday season, the repercussions of rising COVID-19 case counts and public health measures driven by the Omicron variant in late December 2021 and early January 2022 were felt quite heavily on employment across the entire economy.

It is typical for seasonally unadjusted employment to drop in the winter months; however, this past month brought unprecedented declines.

Tourism employment decreased in January by 176,000 from the previous month; a 10.1% month-over-month decline. Total employment now sits at 1,567,300, down from 1,743,300 the month before.

It is also common for the seasonally unadjusted employment rate and employment across all industries to decline in January. As mentioned, the unemployment rate for all industries in Canada has also risen this past month—from 5.4% in December to 6.8% in January. For the Canadian economy as a whole, seasonally unadjusted employment declined by 484,900 in January 2022—this decrease marks the largest monthly decline since January 2021.

The employment decreases in both tourism and the broader economy were due to large decreases in part-time employment. Part-time employment in the tourism industry dropped by 122,600 (or 16.5%), while full-time employment declined by 53,400 (or 5.3%).

It is typical to see a drop in tourism employment between the months of December and January (Fig. 1). For example, between December 2016 and January 2017 there was a decline of 9,200; the next year saw a reduction of 22,300 in employment numbers, and a 4,600 drop in employment was recorded between December 2018 and January 2019. Again, increases in tourism employment are highly unusual for this month, but the previous two years have been extreme outliers which have been exacerbated by the economic impact of COVID-19 outbreaks and responsive social policies.

Figure 1

In January 2022, the unemployment rate in the tourism sector was 11.9%—more than double the previous month (December 2021), when the unemployment rate for tourism stood at 5.2%. A year-over-year comparison does provide important context, however, as the present rate of 11.9% is substantially lower than the 18.6% rate reported in January 2021 (Fig. 2).

All tourism industry groups reported lower unemployment rates than the same month last year.

Figure 2

On a provincial basis, tourism unemployment rates ranged from 2.7% in Manitoba to 18.9% in New Brunswick (Fig. 3). The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for tourism in each province, with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba, and Alberta, were above the rates reported for the provincial economy.

Figure 3

When looking at January 2022 employment within the various tourism industry groups, the most significant decreases from the previous month were in the food and beverage services, recreation and entertainment, and the accommodations industries (Fig. 4).

Figure 4

Year-over-year analysis shows that, when compared to the same month in 2021, there has been growth in accommodations and recreation and entertainment along with a slight uptick in transportation employment. Nevertheless, when compared to the 2019 benchmark, each sector has declined between 15% and 32% from January 2019 numbers (Fig. 5).

Figure 5

As we look to the coming months, it is important to recognize that from November to December 2021, Canada’s tourism industry was in recovery mode, with positive gains across key labour market indicators. Public health measures are changing in several provinces, and it is therefore possible that this previous employment momentum will re-emerge as restrictions are eased across the country.


[1] Seasonally adjusted data in a time series has been modified to eliminate the effect of seasonal and calendar influences such as peak seasons of economic activity and monthly holidays.  It allows for comparisons of economic conditions from period to period and sector to sector without variations that may reflect significant seasonal changes that typify industries like tourism. Unadjusted data in a time series is also referred to as a “raw” or “original” time series before seasonal adjustments. For further details, please visit this Statistics Canada webpage.

Late last week, annual labour force survey data for the tourism sector was released. That data shows the stark, ongoing impact of the pandemic on tourism employment. In 2019, tourism employed almost 2.1 million workers. In 2020, this fell to 1.62 million workers, and only rose 2.2% in 2021. There were 1.66 million tourism employees in 2021—that’s 413,500 fewer than in 2019.

Tourism HR Canada will review the annual data and release a full report in the coming months.

Data for the month of December was also published last week. Tourism employment increased for the second month in a row, rising by 8,100, or 0.5%. Data was collected the week of December 5th to 11th, before most Omicron-related restrictions started to be implemented, and therefore do not capture the results of business closures and layoffs later in the month.

Across the entire economy, seasonally adjusted employment rose by 55,000 in December. But the seasonally unadjusted data, which captures the actual number of individuals gaining or losing work, showed employment falling by 13,700. For December, that is a very small employment drop—hence the gain in jobs once seasonal adjustments are made.

Whether using adjusted or unadjusted data, total employment was much higher than in February 2020, the month before the pandemic set in, and than it was in December 2019, to look at the same month prior to COVID. Yet tourism employment remains significantly suppressed, down 16.1% compared to December 2019—even before taking into account tourism job losses that occurred later in the month.

Highlights:

  • As of early December, 1,743,300 individuals were working in the tourism sector.
  • The travel services industry gained 3,800 full-time employees and 3,700 part-time employees, for a total employment gain of 7,500, a 29.6% increase relative to November.
  • In December 2021, the unemployment rate in the tourism sector was at 5.2%.
  • Compared to November, tourism employment increased by 6.7% in Prince Edward Island, 7.3% in Nova Scotia, and 7.6% in Saskatchewan. Smaller employment gains occurred in Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec.
  • The total number of unemployed individuals fell for the fourth month in a row this December.
  • The participation rate for individuals aged 15 to 64 is higher than it was two years ago.
  • Job vacancies fell in October (the most recent month for which there is data), but quarterly job vacancy data shows the massive shortfalls tourism industries experienced this summer.

Please note: To allow comparisons with tourism sector data, which sees significant employment fluctuations over the year, we use seasonally unadjusted data for both tourism employment and overall employment.

Tourism Employment Rate

Tourism employment increased for the second month in a row in December. The increase in employment was small: an additional 8,100 employees were gained in the sector, an increase of 0.5%. Still, the data for November and December does show that the industry was adding staff in preparation for the holiday season. Increasing employment in November and December contrasts strongly with the trendline from 2020, when employment fell throughout the fall and early winter (see Figure 1). As of early December, 1,743,300 individuals were working in the tourism sector’s five industry groups. This is 172,800 more employed workers than at this time last year. However, compared to the same month in 2019, over 333,000 fewer individuals worked in the tourism sector this December.

Both full-time and part-time tourism employment increased in December, although this trend varied greatly by industry group (see Figure 2).

The travel services industry gained 3,800 full-time employees and 3,700 part-time employees, for a total employment gain of 7,500, a 29.6% increase relative to November. Employment in the accommodations industry grew 3.8%, mostly in part-time positions, as was the case in the transportation industry, which grew 3.4% overall.

There was no employment change in the food and beverage services industry due to a loss of part-time employees that offset a gain of 5,200 full-time employees. Recreation and entertainment was the only industry where employment was lost in December, falling 3.4% due to a loss of both full-time and part-time workers.

Tourism employment has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels (see Figure 3). Employment is also lower in all industry groups than in December 2019 (see Figure 4).

Despite December’s employment decrease, the recreation and entertainment industry remains closest to pre-pandemic levels of employment. Relative to February 2020, employment in this industry is down 10.1%. Employment levels in the transportation industry are down 11.9% and employment in food and beverage services is down 13.9% when compared to the same month.

While December saw a significant increase in travel services employment, employment is still down 45.1% compared to the last month before pandemic-induced shutdowns began. Employment in the accommodations industry is down 18.0% compared to February 2020.

That said, due to seasonal variability in employment levels within some industries, comparison to the same month in 2019 can provide a better picture of how employment is holding up (see Figure 4). By this metric, the accommodations industry is doing much worse, with employment down 24.8% compared to December 2019. This is also true of food and beverage services, where employment is down 17.8%.

The travel services industry still has a long way to go to return to pre-pandemic levels of employment, but the last two months are an improvement compared to this past October, when employment in that industry was down 62.9% compared to the same month in 2019. As of December, employment levels have improved but remain down 48.0% compared to December 2019.

Across all industries in the Canadian economy, employment had increased 1.5% compared to December 2019, while employment in the tourism industry remained down 16.1%, a decrease of 333,900 individuals.


Tourism Unemployment

For several months, we have not reported the tourism sector’s unemployment rate. This was because once a person has been unemployed for more than a year, Statistic Canada no longer attaches that individual to their former industry. In April and May of 2021, the unemployment rate for tourism dropped precipitously. This was partially due to the reclassification of unemployed former tourism workers into the “unclassified” industry category.

With overall unemployment levels returning to pre-pandemic levels (see below), it is time to start tracking tourism unemployment once more (see Figure 5). This will be particularly important in the coming months, as many tourism workers who were employed in early December will have lost employment due to the spread of the Omicron variant.

In December 2021, the unemployment rate in the tourism sector was at 5.2%, which is 9.5 percentage points lower than the rate reported in December 2020, and unchanged from the previous month (November 2021).

At 5.2%, tourism’s unemployment rate was below Canada’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 5.4%.

On a provincial basis, tourism unemployment rates ranged from 3.5% in Manitoba to 14.1% in New Brunswick (see Figure 6).

Provincial Tourism Employment

A few provinces saw substantial increases in tourism employment this December. Compared to November, tourism employment increased by 6.7% in Prince Edward Island, 7.3% in Nova Scotia, and 7.6% in Saskatchewan. Smaller employment gains occurred in Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec. In Ontario, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador, tourism employment decreased relative to November.

In most provinces, tourism employment was substantially higher than in December 2020. But compared to the same month in 2019, tourism employment was lower in all provinces, except for Prince Edward Island, where tourism employment was up 4.4% compared to December 2019 (see Figure 7). However, because the Labour Force Survey is based on a sample, and P.E.I. has a small population, that data should be interpreted with caution. Tourism employment in the province is highly seasonal and a recovery in December does not mean employment will also recover this summer.

Job Vacancies

The number of job vacancies in the accommodation and food services sector fell sharply in October, although it remains at historically high levels. The job vacancy rate fell from 14.0% to 11.0% (see Figure 8). Despite the decrease, at 11% there was still one vacant job for for every 10 positions within the sector.

The historically high nature of vacancies in tourism-related sectors can be seen in the quarterly vacancy data, which starts in 2015. The vacancy rate (the number of vacancies as a percentage of total available positions) has shot upward in the accommodation and food services industries since the start of 2021 (see Figure 9).

Figure 8 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0372-01  Job vacancies, payroll employees, and job vacancy rate by industry sector, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality

Figure 9 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0326-01  Job vacancies, payroll employees, job vacancy rate, and average offered hourly wage by industry sector, quarterly, unadjusted for seasonality

Employment by Sector

In December, most sectors of the economy employed more workers than they did two years ago. And there were more employed workers as well. Seasonally unadjusted employment has increased by 283,300 since since December 2019. Among the six sectors where employment levels are still lower than they were pre-pandemic, the accommodation and food services sector has lost the most employees by far (see Figure 10).

Figure 10 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0036-01  Actual hours worked by industry, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality

Total Unemployed and Unemployment Rate

The number of unemployed individuals fell for the fourth month in a row this December. There were 49,500 more unemployed workers this December than in December 2019, but the number of unemployed workers was also lower than in January and February of 2020. It was also lower than in November 2019. Thus, the number of people seeking work is back to pre-pandemic levels (see Figure 11).

The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 5.4% in December (the adjusted rate was 5.9%).  This is likely to change when January’s data is released, as the restrictions put in place to counter the spread of the Omicron variant will have put people out of work—particularly in the tourism industry. Unemployment will increase, although the restrictions may be shorter lived than during past waves. If so, workers will be more likely to return to their former jobs. The longer the businesses are closed, or operating at limited capacity, the more likely it is that yet more tourism workers will find employment in other industries.

Figure 11 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0017-01  Labour force characteristics by sex and detailed age group, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality (x 1,000)

Not in the Labour Force – Not Employed, Not Seeking Work

The number of people not actively engaging in the labour force continued to increase in December (see Figure 12). This is a common trend for this time of year. The number of people not active in the labour force (not employed or actively seeking a job), usually climbs through the fall and early winter before declining again starting in February or March.

The number of people who were not in the labour force but wanted to work also increased slightly, by 8,800. These are individuals who may be enticed to return to work. However, there are barriers which prevent them from active labour force participation and can be difficult to surmount. As of December, there were 386,600 individuals who wanted to work but were unable, for various reasons (see Figure 15).

The participation rate is the percentage of the population over the age of 15 that is either employed or actively seeking work. The overall participation rate is lower than it was two years ago, but this is due to lower participation among those over 65. Among the 15 to 64 age group, participation is higher than it was two years ago (see Figure 14). This is a good thing as it means more of Canada’s population is working, or looking for work. There are always some people who are unable to actively participate in the labour market at some point because they are retired, ill, a student, or for other reasons. A higher participation rate is generally good for the economy, but the higher it climbs, the harder it is to draw more people into active participation in the labour force. For sectors that are still seeking to restaff, higher participation rates are a double-edged sword, especially when unemployment has fallen.

Figure 12 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0017-01 Labour force characteristics by sex and detailed age group, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality (x 1,000)

Figure 13 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0127-01 Reason for not looking for work, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality (x 1,000)

Figure 14 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0287-01  Labour force characteristics, monthly, seasonally adjusted and trend-cycle, last 5 months

Figure 15 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0127-01  Reason for not looking for work, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality (x 1,000)

A Tightening Labour Market

Even with a slight increase in tourism employment this December, the annual data clearly shows how far tourism employment has fallen from its pre-pandemic highs. On a monthly basis the number of workers in the sector fluctuates, but with annual data we can safely say that our industry needs approximately 400,000 workers to return to pre-COVID levels of employment. This has been driven by repeated rounds of businesses closures and limitations on business activity and travel that forced tourism workers out of their jobs. Many found jobs in other industries. The Canadian labour market returned to pre-pandemic status several months ago. Unemployment is low and people 15 to 64 are participating in the labour force more than before the pandemic. This leaves limited avenues for sectors of the economy such as tourism to find former workers.

And although the monthly data showed an increase in employment this December, we also know that later in the month many current tourism workers lost their jobs once more. Just how many will be answered when January data is released in early February. Hopefully, business closures and restrictions will not last as long as during other waves. Having come during the holiday season, however, is going to severely hurt hospitality businesses. Even as restrictions lift, some businesses will find it difficult to fully reopen at this time of year.

If businesses can reopen quickly, tourism workforce losses may be limited. The longer former tourism employees are out of work, the more likely they are to find jobs in other industries. The tourism industry has a major challenge in the coming months. Let’s say Omicron is the final major wave of the pandemic. If that is the case, there will be significant lifting of restrictions and a resurgence of travel this summer. We won’t get back to 2019 levels, but there will be a lot more demand for tourism than there has been for the past two years. Tourism businesses will need to find a lot of lost workers. We will have the usual summer increase of employment from students and other young people, but it is the long-term, year-round employees that were lost that must be replaced. Without them, the summer youth cohort is not enough to meet demand.

We also need to recognize that the workforce has given our industry a hard look these past two years. Sentiment towards the tourism sector as a place of work has taken a negative turn. The long-term workers that have been lost are not coming back—at least not in significant numbers. We need to figure out how to attract enough workers in the short, medium, and long term. The successful and sustainable recovery of our visitor economy depends on all of us collaborating to make ourselves a more attractive place to work, because we need to convert new hires into long-term tourism employees and future industry leaders.

View more employment charts and analysis on our Tourism Employment Tracker.

In November, tourism employment increased by 11,200, which is highly unusual for this month. Since 2006, the only other time that tourism employment increased in November was in 2012, when employment increased by 5,500. Generally, tourism employment falls by roughly 28,000 between October and November.[1]

Seasonally unadjusted employment across all industries usually declines in November as well. Since 2006, overall employment has only increased in 2017 and 2018. In 2019, employment fell by 137,400 in November.

This year, seasonally unadjusted employment increased by 93,600. When seasonal adjustments are taken into account, employment increased by 154,000.

Data reflects labour market conditions during the week of November 7 to 13, 2021.

Highlights:

  • Tourism employment increased in November, an unusual occurrence for this time of year.
  • Tourism employed 300,000 fewer workers this November than in November 2019.
  • Total employment also increased in November, also an unusual trend for the time of year.
  • The total number of employed workers in Canada has risen by 290,200 since November 2019.
  • The number of unemployed workers has fallen for three months in a row and is only 36,300 individuals higher than it was in November 2019.
  • The number of people not in the labour force has fallen, except for those over the age of 65.
  • The number of people not in the labour force who want to work has also returned to pre-pandemic levels.
  • The overall labour market looks very much like it did pre-pandemic in terms of unemployment, the number of people not in the labour force, and participation rates for most age groups.
  • The general outlook is one in which the labour market has tightened substantially over the past three months, making it more difficult for sectors where employment has not recovered to find workers.

Please note: To allow comparisons with tourism sector data, which sees significant employment fluctuations over the year, we use seasonally unadjusted data for both tourism employment and overall employment.

Tourism Employment Rate

Following two months of falling employment, the number of workers employed in the tourism sector rose by 11,200 in November, increasing 0.6%. As of November, 1,735,200 individuals were working in the tourism sector’s five industry groups; this is 111,200 more employed workers than at this time last year. However, compared to the same month in 2019, over 300,000 fewer individuals worked in the sector.

The gain in employment was due to increases in part-time employment, which was up by 21,500 since October. Full-time employment within tourism declined by 10,400, although some industries saw gains in full-time employment (see Figure 2).

While tourism sector employment increased, employment fell by 12,300 (-8.6%) in the accommodations industry group and by 1,700 in the recreation and entertainment industry group.

The travel services industry gained 1,700 employees in total (a loss of part-time employees was offset by a gain of 2,800 full-time employees), following employment declines in six of the past seven months. Any increase in employment within the travel services industry is good news, as employment within that industry has fallen by 56.4% since March of 2021.

Across all industry groups within tourism, employment has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels (see Figure 3). Employment is also lower in all industry groups than in November 2019 (see Figure 4).

The recreation and entertainment industry is closest to pre-pandemic levels of employment. Relative to February 2020, employment in that industry is only down 6.9%, and compared to November 2019, employment is down 5.1%. Recreation and entertainment is also the industry that has gained the most employment relative to 2020.

At the other end of the spectrum is the travel services industry. Employment held up relatively well in this industry for the first year of the pandemic. Since March, employment has plummeted, and is down by 60% relative to the same month in 2019. Travel services is also the only tourism industry in which employment is lower than it was in 2020.


Provincial Tourism Employment

Provincially, there was a mix of employment gains and losses within the tourism sector. Tourism employment grew 10.5% in Newfoundland and Labrador, and there were smaller employment gains in New Brunswick, Ontario, and Manitoba. Tourism employment fell in Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia. Tourism employment levels were unchanged in Prince Edward Island.

Unsurprisingly, tourism employment was lower in all provinces than in November 2019. More concerningly, four provinces are showing lower employment levels than last year.

Job Vacancies

Job vacancy data is not as timely as employment data. September data was recently released and shows a large spike in vacancies among accommodation and food service businesses (see Figure 9). The job vacancy rate reached 14.4%, a historically unprecedented level. It has never been this high since Statistics Canada began tracking this data every quarter via the job vacancy and wage survey in 2015[2]. The September labour force survey analysis by Tourism HR Canada showed a large decline in employment that was concentrated among 15- to 24-year-olds. The vacancy data that is now available shows that although young people left their jobs in September, employers were still looking to fill those positions.

Figure 6 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0372-01  Job vacancies, payroll employees, and job vacancy rate by industry sector, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality

Figure 7 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0326-01  Job vacancies, payroll employees, job vacancy rate, and average offered hourly wage by industry sector, quarterly, unadjusted for seasonality

Employment by Sector

As of October, ten sectors of the economy employ more workers than two years ago, while six have lower employment. Overall, seasonally unadjusted employment has increased by 290,200 since November 2019. The largest gains in employment have occurred in professional, scientific and technical services; wholesale and retail trade; and public administration.

In terms of total employment losses and gains, those sectors that have gained employment since November 2019 have added 732,100 jobs. The sectors that have lost employment have 442,000 fewer workers than they did two years ago (see Figure 8).

Figure 8 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0036-01  Actual hours worked by industry, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality

Total Unemployed and Unemployment Rate

Unemployment across the entire economy fell for the third month in a row in November. The number of unemployed individuals fell by 86,700 between October and November and is down by 502,000 since August. Since August, the number of employed workers has increased by 137,600. The gap exists because many young people exit the labour force entirely at the end of summer. They return to school, and are not employed but not considered unemployed because they are not actively seeking another job.

Compared to the same month two years ago, there were 36,300 more unemployed workers in November 2021. The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.6%, the lowest since December 2019. Because the labour force has grown, the number of unemployed workers is still slightly elevated compared to both November and December 2019. However, there are fewer unemployed workers than there were in January and February of 2020. In other words, unemployment levels in Canada look very much like they did pre-pandemic.

Figure 9 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0017-01  Labour force characteristics by sex and detailed age group, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality (x 1,000)

Not in the Labour Force – Not Employed, Not Seeking Work

As mentioned, some of the drop in unemployment since August is due to people leaving the labour force. Between October and November, the number of people not in the labour force grew by 29,600, and the number of people not in the labour force has grown by 474,200 since August (see Figure 10). This increase is a regular seasonal occurrence. However, even taking seasonality into account, the number of people not in the labour force has grown significantly. Since November 2019, it has increased by 267,600.

But this growth has come from those over the age of 65. In all other age categories, fewer people are not actively participating in the labour force (see Figure 11). One exception in November was those aged 35 to 44, but this age group also showed decreases in August and October. November’s data is likely a fluke since the trend since the summer has been fewer people not in the labour force, except for those over the age of 65.

The seasonally adjusted participation rates, which show the percentage of people actively participating in the labour force, support this assertion. While the total participation rate for anyone over 15 has decreased slightly since November 2019, it is the same or higher for people between the ages of 15 and 64 (see Figure 12).

In November, the number of people not in the labour force who wanted to work also fell from 381,900 to 377,800. The number of people in this category is still higher than in November 2019, but it is now in roughly the same range that it was during pre-pandemic times (see Figure 13). The greatest difference between November 2019 and November 2021 is the increase in individuals awaiting recalls and the decline in the number of individuals citing “other” as a reason for not seeking work, even though they wanted to (see Figure 14).

Figure 10 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0017-01 Labour force characteristics by sex and detailed age group, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality (x 1,000)

Figure 11 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0017-01 Labour force characteristics by sex and detailed age group, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality (x 1,000)

Figure 12 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0287-01  Labour force characteristics, monthly, seasonally adjusted and trend-cycle, last 5 months

Figure 13 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0127-01  Reason for not looking for work, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality (x 1,000)

Figure 14 Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0127-01  Reason for not looking for work, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality (x 1,000)

A Tightening Labour Market

Some tourism demand sources—such as international tourism and business travel—remain suppressed. Because of this, some businesses may not require the full complement of staff that they did prior to the pandemic. However, the vacancies data for the summer clearly shows that employment would be higher if tourism business owners could find all the staff they needed.

Demand for tourism goods and services usually drops in the fall, but this year, that is offset by the loosening of restrictions and the return of some international travellers as borders reopen. Because of these two variables, it hard to predict whether vacancies will come down or increase further in October and November.

Regardless, in November, the tourism sector was still employing 300,000 fewer workers than it was in 2019. And over the past few months, Canada’s overall labour market has largely come to look as it did pre-pandemic. Overall employment is now higher than it was two years ago. Unemployment is only slightly elevated, as is the number of people not in the labour force who would like to work but cannot. For most age groups, the number of people not in the labour force has fallen.

This may be good news for those who lost work due to the pandemic. Most of them have found new jobs. It is not good news for any sectors of the economy where demand for services is growing and employment has not recovered. The slack that existed within the labour market this spring and summer has vanished over the last few months.

View more employment charts and analysis on our Tourism Employment Tracker.


[1]Average decline in tourism employment in November between 2006 and 2019

[2] Data was not collected in Q2 and Q3 of 2020

By Joe Baker, Tourism HR Canada Board Member

This article was originally published in STAY Magazine.

One of the greatest challenges the hospitality and tourism industry is grappling with is the present state of our workforce. Workforce can be an ambiguous term. When I use the term, I am speaking about a spectrum that includes every individual working in our industry—from frontline to senior executive.

The most pressing issue at hand requires us to focus on a core concept that should already be present in every business in this industry—real leadership.

In September of this year, Canada reached a milestone on our route to recovery. According to Statistics Canada, after four consecutive months of increase, the country added 157,000 new jobs. The gains in September brought employment back to the same level as in February 2020, just before the onset of the pandemic. A sampling of the headlines from major media outlets could lead an observer to believe all is well. To mention but a couple: “Canada’s labour market returns to pre-pandemic levels” (BNN Bloomberg), “Canada posts massive jobs gain; employment back to pre-pandemic levels” (Reuters). Looks good. Doesn’t it?

If you have been reading STAY Magazine then you know this is not the lived experience of employers across Canada’s hospitality and tourism industry. In late November of this year, through in-depth analysis, Tourism HR Canada reported an unprecedented 200,000 job vacancies. That is 200,000 jobs unfilled due to an insufficient supply of human capital.

These two data points create a challenging dilemma and conflicting narrative for our industry. On one hand, we run the risk that our government officials who may be looking at macro-level employment numbers are influenced to slow business relief programs assuming there is a healthy and robust workforce. This puts pressure on our associations and advocacy bodies who are tenacious in their push for continued support to our employers. And most immediately this puts pressure on our employers who feel beaten by the pandemic.

These seemingly divergent data points also put pressure on a narrative I hope we can begin to move away from. The idea that hospitality and tourism workers have traded their jobs for a steady supply of government subsidies and are staying at home rather than returning to work is both inaccurate and dangerously anecdotal.

It also casts our workforce in an extremely unflattering light and allows us to shift blame to them rather than wrestling with the idea that it is the industry that let them down. Take a moment to reflect on what the Stats Can data told us—the Canadians who left the overall workforce during the pandemic have now returned. But interpreting the data requires careful analysis. They may have returned to the workforce, but they did not return to our workforce. They left. And they likely aren’t choosing to come back.

Albert Einstein is famously quoted as having said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” The question to ask ourselves now looks more like this. Why did our workforce leave in the first place? What prompted that choice? Why did they then decide to re-join the labour market in a new industry? And what can we learn from this loss that can prevent another in the future?

As we look forward to solutions, we need to focus on new recruitment strategies in tandem with new retention plans. The cost of this correction in the labour market will be substantial. And anyone reading this who works in sales or human resources equally understands that the cost of recruiting new is far greater than investment in retaining those we have. If we want to make a difference, we need to accept that the path less travelled is one lined with empathy and growth leading to a new approach in human capital management that nurtures our workforce.


Joe Baker is a passionate leader within Canada’s tourism, hospitality and education sectors and a vocal advocate for a resilient, inclusive, future-forward industry. He is CEO of Joe Baker & Co., a human capital consultancy focused on strengthening hospitality and tourism organizations and people. Baker was dean at Centennial College’s School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts where he led the most significant transformation in the school’s over 50-year history. He serves on the board of directors at Tourism HR Canada, Tourism Industry Association of Ontario and is on the editorial advisory board for SUSTAIN Magazine.

Joe can be found everywhere @thejoebaker.

Statistics Canada has just released its job vacancy rates data for the month of September. The number of vacancies in the accommodation and food services industry was truly unprecedented.

Tourism HR Canada expected to see a slight decrease from August to September, given the reduced demand for tourism goods and services that usually accompanies the end of the summer season and return to school.

This year, however, the number of vacant jobs spiked to nearly 200,000. Almost 40,000 more jobs were vacant in September than in August.

This means 14.4% of jobs in this industry were unstaffed, impacting the ability to remain open to full capacity, stretching current staff members’ workloads, and likely diminishing service levels.  Tourism HR Canada will continue to work with tourism stakeholders across the country to build on our coordinated, concerted effort to place tourism as a destination for employment and show that demand for employees is far outpacing supply. And this is demand that was only just starting to pick up as border restrictions were eased. As more restrictions lift (such as PCR tests) and the rate of vaccines in children increases, this demand will continue to rise. Our sector must ensure we have the skilled staff to welcome these visitors as they return.

The number of job vacancies did drop slightly in the arts, entertainment and recreation industry, falling just shy of 1,500 to 16,380 (leaving 5.5% of jobs unfilled). However, this industry is much more seasonal in nature, so there may be a return to higher rates in the spring.

Below are the charts for each of these industry groups. Further information can be found on the Stats Canada website, including data for other industries—tourism is far from the only sector facing historically high vacancy rates, leading to increased competition for workers.

Accommodation and Food Services
May 2021 June 2021 July 2021 August 2021 September 2021
Job vacancies 78,365 123,700 132,800 156,755 196,050
Payroll employees 921,880 891,265 1,008,410 1,120,270 1,162,255
Job vacancy rate 7.8% 12.2% 11.6% 12.3% 14.4%

 

Arts, Entertainment and Recreation
May 2021 June 2021 July 2021 August 2021 September 2021
Job vacancies 13,615 16,900 10,940 17,875 16,380
Payroll employees 189,510 183,165 218,325 267,420 282,850
Job vacancy rate 6.7% 8.4% 4.8% 6.3% 5.5%