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There were 18.4 million people in the labour force in 2009, with 16.8 million employed. Over the year, the labour force grew by 0.7%, the lowest rate of growth in over two decades.
Employment fell by 284,000 (1.7%) during the first half of the year following the downturn in global financial markets. In July 2009, the unemployment rate peaked at 8.6%, the highest rate in over a decade.
The second half of the year saw weak employment gains in the labour market (104,000) and the year ended with employment levels below those in January 2009. Overall, employment fell by 277,000 (1.6%) in 2009, and the unemployment rate rose 2.2 percentage points to 8.3%.
Most of the employment losses in 2009 were in the goods-producing sector, particularly in the manufacturing and construction industries. Manufacturing lost 180,000 workers (9.1%) and construction lost 71,000 workers (5.7%).
Provinces most affected by the labour market downturn were Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. The unemployment rate was the highest in Ontario at 9.0% and in Quebec at 8.5%: the national average was 8.3%. The unemployment rate for British Columbia was 7.6% in 2009.
It was mainly full-time workers in the private sector who accounted for most of the employment decline in 2009. From 2008 to 2009, employment among full-time workers fell by 2.5% (348,000), whereas part-time employment grew by 2.3% (71,000).
Meanwhile, employment fell 3.0% in the private sector and slipped 0.4% in the public sector. Employment among the self-employed rose by 2.7% or 72,000.
Employment gain among older workers
Older workers experienced the fastest employment growth in 2009. Employment among workers aged 55 and older grew by 4.5%, or 120,000, the only age group to see growth over the period. By comparison, employment fell by 0.5% for core-age workers (aged 25 to 54), and by 4.8% for youth (aged 19 to 24).
Immigrant workers join Canadian labour force
Immigrants accounted for almost half of the 0.3% growth in the labour force in 2009. Three-quarters of all immigrants aged 15 and older who landed in Canada within the past five years were in the core-age group.
In 2009, core-age immigrants in the labour force grew at an annual rate of 1.9%, more than offsetting the 0.1% decline in the number of Canadian-born workers. Virtually all growth in the labour force for this age group came from immigrants.
In 2009, the gap in employment widened between men and women as well as between immigrant men and their Canadian-born counterparts. In 2009, the employment rate was 61.4% for immigrant men and 51.0% for immigrant women. The employment rate for Canadian-born men was 66.4%, 5.8 percentage points higher than the rate for Canadian-born women and 5.0 percentage points higher than the rate for immigrant men.
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