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January 2004
Vol. 5, no. 1

Perspectives on Labour and Income

The labour market in 2003
Geoff Bowlby

  • Employment growth was slow for most of 2003, but soared in the final four months. The unemployment rate averaged 7.6%, down marginally from 2002.
  • Just over 15.7 million people were employed in 2003, up 334,000 (2.2%) from 2002. At 62.4% of the working-age population, this was the highest annual employment rate on record. Much of the gain was in full-time work.
  • The continued strength of the housing sector contributed to a 5.5% surge in construction employment, as well as a 4.5% increase in employment in finance, insurance and real estate.
  • Self-employment posted its second consecutive yearly gain. After falling 154,000 between 1999 and 2001, self-employment increased 37,000 in 2002 and another 67,000 in 2003.
  • Employment in manufacturing fell 32,000 (or 1.4%), with the weakness concentrated in computer and electronic as well as transportation equipment.
  • Although employment in public administration surged 37,000 in 2003, it remains well below its peak in 1993. In 1993, civil servants made up 6.7% of the workforce, compared with 5.2% in 2003.

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Geoff Bowlby is with the Housing, Family and Social Statistics Division. He can be reached at (613) 951-3325 or

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