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Go west and north, young workers, suggest latest StatsCan figures

One message to draw from the Statistics Canada's labour force numbers released today may well be: "Go west and north, young workers."

Statistics Canada released its National Household Survey on the nation's labour force today, analyzing figures drawn from a survey taken in the summer of 2011 to capture data about the first week of May that year. (In 2011, the National Household Survey, a voluntary study, was implemented to replace the obligatory long form census, which had been cancelled.)

The large jurisdictions reporting the highest employment rates in the nation were the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Alberta. Calgary, Regina and Edmonton were the metropolitan areas with highest rates of employment (70 per cent, 69.2 per cent and 69 per cent respectively.)

Metro Vancouver, not listed among the top areas by StatsCan, reports in a separate document that its 2011 employment rate was 61.7 per cent.

The early May snapshot portrays a workforce with nearly 18 million participants, of whom just fewer than 16.6 million were employed that week. Nearly half of that number were women. "Retail salesperson" was the leading job category for both men and women, at 4.7 per cent for women and 3.3 per cent for men.

This latest labour force report confirms a troubling trend seen across the developed world in the last decade: a loss of traditionally higher-paying and more secure manufacturing jobs. During the snapshot period in 2011, the manufacturing sector only employed 9.2 per cent of the workforce across Canada, down from 16 per cent in 2000, 12 per cent in 2007 and 10 per cent in 2009 after the global economic meltdown of 2008.

To compare, the U.S. lost one-quarter of its total manufacturing jobs between 1998 and 2008.

Ninety-nine per cent of those surveyed work in one or both of Canada's two official languages, with 13.9 per cent reporting that they work in two or more languages. Beyond French and English, the Chinese family of languages represents the next most common language used in Canadian workplaces, with just under one-quarter million workers reporting a Chinese dialect as their language of work.

Level of education continued to be a predictor of employment in 2011. Among workers aged from 25 to 64, those with university credentials had an employment rate of 81.6 per cent, while those with no certificate, diploma or degree had an employment rate of 55.8 per cent.

In findings that will not please environmentalists concerned about carbon emissions and climate change, the study indicates that 74 per cent of Canadian workers still drive to work, while 12 per cent use public transit, 5.7 per cent walk and 1.3 per cent cycle. Toronto (23.3 per cent), Montreal (22.2 per cent) Ottawa-Gatineau (20.1 per cent) and Vancouver (19.7 per cent) are all ahead of national averages in public transit commutes, while workers in Victoria top the nation on walking to work, with 10.6 per cent of that city's commuters getting to their jobs as pedestrians.

The 2011 survey was the first national count taken after the Harper government controversially changed regulations that made census participation obligatory in the past.

Critics had suggested the new voluntary household survey would be less accurate, and some statements from StatsCan when releasing the first instalment of the report in May suggested that there may indeed be problems of accuracy with the new census approach.

Tom Sandborn covers labour and health policy beats for the Tyee. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at tos@infinet.net.

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