“Real” Canadian Unemployment Rate Almost 12%.

Since October, 2008, the national unemployment rate has jumped sharply from 6.3% to 7.7% – driven entirely by job losses. The participation rate has fallen over the same period, from 67.8% to 67.4%. If this had not happened, the rise in the unemployment rate would have been even greater.

As well, we have seen a shift to part-time jobs. The proportion of the employed labour force working part-time rose from 18.6% to 19.0% between October and February. Part-time work is increasingly involuntary. Between February, 2008 and February, 2009, the proportion of part-timers saying they were in that status because of business conditions – as opposed to a preference for part-time hours – rose from 20.7% to 24.9%. (These data not available on a seasonally adjusted basis.)

Statistics Canada provides supplementary unemployment rates which take into account the fact that the headline national unemployment rate does not include:

Discouraged Workers – unemployed workers who have stopped actively looking for work because they believe no jobs are available.
The Waiting Group – unemployed workers not actively looking for work because they expect to return to work shortly
Involuntary Part-time Workers – people working part-time who want to work full time. The supplementary rate counts the hours people wanted to work but were not able to do so.

The broadest measure of unemployment (R8) which includes all of these groups rose from 8.0% in October 2008 to 11.7% in February 2009 or almost one in eight Canadian workers. These data are not seasonally adjusted, but the “real” rate of unemployment was also up sharply compared to February 2008. (from 8.9% to 11.7%.)


  • Very useful. do we also have anywhere a racial or gender breakdown of these figures, ie, percent of racialized workers laid off? will be useful to see how the recession might have disproportionate adverse impact on already marginalized groups.

    Jojo Geronimo

  • There two other groups not counted by stats can – the “no phone” group that include rural party lines hotel/SRO occupants that have no personal phones or share a single phone.

    Stats can doesn’t phone these groups in their labour survey even though the latter is typically unemployed or woefully underemployed.

    Homeless people get the double whammy – they aren’t counted in the census so aren’t even part of the population never mind the labour force and they don’t have land-lines so don’t get called by statscan either. Homeless people by definition aren’t a “household” and are not considered unemployed by the labour survey.

    What I found very telling about labour survey stats was looking at the percentage of population that is EMployed (not participation rate). Looking at the St Louis Fed data the percentage of pop employed in the 50s was 54% to 58%. This was a time when women didn’t work (at least middle/upper class didn’t) and there were 3.x children in every family (so 2/5ths of the pop as adults).

    Looking through the 90s the percentage of population that is employed is around 62%-64%. This after the “liberation” of women who entered the workforce en-mass and a steady decline in the number of children per family (Think we’re at 1.2 or something).

    This shows just how phoney the labour survey is these days. With the number of women needing to work and the decline in dependent children compared to the 1950s a 6% increase in employment of the population is disasterous.

    My first inkling of something fishy about labour stats came when I downloaded statscan’s labour survey data (I went as far back as I could get) and say that nice note from statscan saying you can’t compare pre-1972 unemployment numbers with post-1972 numbers because they count different things (or was in 1976?).

    I think 12% is far too low.

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