Labour force status

One in three people are not in the labour force

  • The working-age population is divided into three mutually exclusive groups: employed, unemployed and those not in the labour force. People in the first two groups are considered 'active in the labour market.' The third group—those not in the labour force—is not often examined despite its large size. In 2007, it comprised 8.6 million people, nearly eight times higher than the number of unemployed.

  • Individuals who are out of the labour force are a heterogeneous group. In 2007, the 'not in the labour force' group mainly included people aged 65 and over (45.5%), students not wishing to work (13.0%), and women who had children under 18 years of age and did not want a job (7.3%). That year, discouraged searchers (people who wanted work but did not look because they thought none was available) accounted for a mere 0.3% of the population who were not in the labour force.

  • The 'not in the labour force' group has declined steadily as a proportion of the working-age population, dropping from about 38.5% in 1976 to 32.4% in 2007. While the strong labour market pushed the rate to a record low in 2007, this trend is likely to reverse itself in the future, owing to an aging population and an anticipated surge in the number of retirees.

Chart A.4
Distribution of the population 15 years and over, by labour force status, 1976 to 2007

Chart A.4 Distribution of the population 15 years and over, by labour force status, 1976 to 2007

Source: Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, CANSIM table 282-0002.

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