Record number of new immigrants boosted labour market growth from 2016 to 2021: Statistics Canada

Working in Canada before becoming a permanent resident has been shown to be a factor in improving labour market outcomes


STATISTICS Canada says that while immigration cannot fully offset the effects of population aging, it is an important source of talent for Canada’s labour force.

Over 1.3 million new immigrants were admitted to Canada from 2016 to 2021, more than during any previous five-year period. Just over 1.1 million new immigrants were aged 15 and older. These new arrivals, along with previous immigrant cohorts, accounted for more than one-quarter (27.7%) of the core-age labour force in 2021, up from 25.7% in 2016. Immigrants in this age group who landed five years earlier or less comprised 5.7% of the labour force in 2021, up from 4.7% in 2016.

Immigrants play a large role in the labour market across the country. In Ontario, 34.2% of the core-age labour force are immigrants, the highest proportion of all provinces and territories, followed by British Columbia at 33.1%. Among census metropolitan areas (CMAs, defined as urban centres of 100,000 or more people) more than half (51.9%) of Toronto’s core-age labour force are immigrants, and 46.2% of Vancouver’s labour force aged 25 to 54 are also immigrants. Illustrating their importance to labour markets across the country, including outside the largest cities, immigrants aged 25 to 54 made up 48.7% of the core-aged labour force in Brooks, Alberta, and 13.3% in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

In May 2021, immigrants were making an important contribution to employment in all industries and sectors. For example, immigrants aged 25 to 54 accounted for 36.3% of all core-aged employment in accommodation and food services; 37.8% of those in transportation and warehousing; 34.1% of those working in professional, scientific and technical services; and 20.1% of those aged 25 to 54 employed in construction.


Recent immigrants have lower unemployment rates than earlier cohorts

While immigration represents an important source of labour supply, especially in the context of population aging, workers arriving in Canada often face a period of adjustment, and employers may face challenges in fully using the talents and skills that immigrants offer. Due in part to these challenges, recent immigrants—those who landed in the five years before the census—typically have higher unemployment rates than those who have been in Canada longer or people who were born in Canada.

While new immigrants continue to face these challenges, the gap between the unemployment rate of recent immigrants and other workers was smaller in 2021 than in 2016. For example, among those aged 25 to 54, recent immigrants had an unemployment rate of 10.9% in May 2021, while the rate for non-immigrants was 7.7%, a gap of 3.2 percentage points. In comparison, the equivalent gap in 2016 was 5.0 percentage points (unemployment rate of 11.0% for recent immigrants and 6.0% for non-immigrants).

Besides experiencing unemployment rates that were more like those of non-immigrants in 2021 than of non-immigrants in 2016, core-age immigrants who landed from 2016 to 2021 were more likely than the previous five-year cohort to be employed in industries with above-average hourly wages. These industries included professional, scientific and technical services (15.3% of 2016-to-2021 immigrants, compared with 10.3% of 2011-to-2016 immigrants); finance and insurance (7.4%, compared with 5.1%); and transportation and warehousing (7.3% vs. 5.0%).

Many factors can contribute to changes in the labour market integration of immigrants. For example, those who gained permanent residency from 2016 to 2021 were more highly educated than any previous cohort, with nearly 6 in 10 holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. In addition, analysis from the census release on immigration shows that more than one-third of recent immigrants first came to Canada temporarily before seeking permanent residence, compared with 17.9% among longer-term immigrants. The vast majority (77.3%) of recent immigrants with this pre-admission experience had a temporary work permit. Working in Canada before becoming a permanent resident has been shown to be a factor in improving labour market outcomes.


Highlights of Jobs in Canada report


In the face of population aging and the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of health care workers increases by over 200,000 in five years to 1.5 million in 2021.

The construction industry, with over 1.3 million workers, continues to be an important employer for men working as labourers and in skilled trades.

Growth in professional, scientific and technical services employment outpaces that of all other industries, with 1.5 million employed in 2021.

Four million Canadians are working in sales and service occupations.

The participation rate fell from 65.2% in 2016 to 63.7% in 2021 as more baby boomers near or enter retirement age.

From 2016 to 2021, a record 1.3 million new immigrants came to Canada seeking opportunities, boosting labour market growth.

Recent immigrants in 2021 experienced lower unemployment rates than earlier cohorts.

Participation rates increased from 2016 to 2021 for many racialized groups, with notable increases for Korean and West Asian Canadians.

Participation rates declined for First Nations people and Inuit as their labour force growth lags behind their population increases.

In Canada’s biggest cities, employment rates in 2021 are highest among those in Quebec and the Prairies.

The information and communication technology sector is a key employer in six Canadian high-tech hubs, and employed more than 600,000 workers nationally in 2021.

In May 2021, there were 4.2 million people working at home, up from 1.3 million in 2016.

Working at home is most prominent in big cities and among people in professional occupations—with over 5% of teleworkers relocating from where they lived 12 months earlier.

Despite a record-high number and share of Canadians speaking a non-official language at home, English and French remained the languages of convergence in workplaces across the country as 98.7% of workers used one of these two languages most often at work. Overall, 77.1% of workers mainly used English at work, 19.9% mainly used French, and 1.7% used English and French equally.