Study: Apprenticeable occupations and the employment downturn in Canada

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October 2008 to October 2010

Declines in employment between October 2008 and October 2009 were larger in occupations for which an apprenticeship program exists than in all other occupations combined. However, between October 2009 and October 2010, the recovery in employment was stronger in these apprenticeable occupations than in all other occupations.

Apprenticeable occupations saw employment losses of 5.7% between October 2008 and October 2009, compared with 1.3% for other occupations.

The decline in employment had the greatest impact on welders, exterior finishing occupations, machinists, carpenters and heavy equipment and crane operators, including drillers.

These decreases were especially reflected by employment losses in the mining and oil and gas extraction, transportation and warehousing, manufacturing and construction sectors, all of which are closely associated with employment in apprenticeable occupations.

On the other hand, the increase in employment between October 2009 and October 2010 was more beneficial to workers in apprenticeable occupations.

Apprenticeable occupations posted gains of 3.3% between October 2009 and October 2010, compared with 2.0% for workers in other occupations. However, employment in October 2010 (2,892,000) remained below its October 2008 level (2,969,000).

Decline between October 2008 and October 2009

Not all workers in apprenticeable occupations were affected in the same way by the employment losses between October 2008 and October 2009.

Welders, exterior finishing occupations, machinists, carpenters and heavy equipment and crane operators, including drillers, experienced the largest employment losses among apprenticeable occupations.

For all occupations combined, the employment downturn took its heaviest toll in Ontario and Alberta, where employment decreased by 3.1% and 3.3%, respectively.

Note to readers

In this study, Labour Force Survey (LFS) data are used to explore changes in employment in apprenticeable occupations (such as electricians, machinists, hairstylists), comparing those changes with those observed in all other occupations combined.

Employment levels peaked in October 2008. This study therefore tracked employment changes on a year-over-year basis, from October 2008 to October 2010.

Employment change is examined from the perspective of selected demographic characteristics, such as age group, level of education, sex and selected employment characteristics.

The occupations concerned in this article are those for which an apprenticeship program exists in Canada.

Estimates from the LFS used in this article are based on data that precede the LFS standard revision of January 2011. Note that changes to the LFS estimates are minor. Rates of unemployment, employment and participation are essentially unchanged, as are key labour market trends.

However, the biggest losses in apprenticeable occupations occurred in British Columbia (-14.4%) and Quebec (-11.8%).

In British Columbia, the five apprenticeable occupations that experienced the largest losses were electricians (-33.4%), interior finishing trades (-30.0%), food service trades (-29.7%) and heavy equipment and crane operators, including drillers (-28.3%).

In Quebec, the most affected occupations were carpenters (-38.2%), hairstylists and estheticians (-27.0%) and truck drivers (-18.0%).

With respect to apprenticeable occupations, employment declined by 12.3% among workers who had not finished high school, compared with a 1.9% decrease for workers who had an apprenticeship or trades certificate.

During the economic downturn, the number of permanent employees fell by 3.8%, while the number of temporary employees edged up 0.7%. However, the decline in permanent employment in apprenticeable occupations was 7.3%, twice the 3.1% decline in permanent employment in other occupations.

Recovery between October 2009 and October 2010

Between October 2009 and October 2010, employment grew slightly in Canada. The recovery was more beneficial for workers in apprenticeable occupations, as employment growth in those occupations was 3.3%, compared with 2.0% for workers in other occupations.

Although Quebec and British Columbia were hardest hit by the decline in employment in apprenticeable occupations, these two provinces saw the strongest growth rates one year later. Employment rose by 73,400 (+12.1%) in Quebec and by 20,600 (+5.6%) in British Columbia between October 2009 and October 2010.

Those two provinces alone accounted for 85% of the employment gains in apprenticeable occupations over that period.

A second article in the February 2011 issue of Education Matters: Insights on Education, Learning and Training in Canada, "A Changing Portrait of International Students in Canadian Universities," draws a portrait of the changing make-up of international students enrolled in Canadian universities on either a part-time or full-time basis over the 1992 to 2008 period. This changing portrait shows how different international students are today compared with their counterparts in the early 1990s.

The article "Apprenticeable Occupations and the Employment Downturn in Canada" is now available in the February 2011 issue of Education Matters: Insights on Education, Learning and Training in Canada, Vol. 7, no. 6 (81-004-X, free). In Browse by subject, click on Education, training and learning, and then Education Matters under Featured products on the right.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Client Services (toll-free 1-800-307-3382; 613-951-7608; fax: 613-951-9040;, Tourism and the Centre for Education Statistics Division.