The fact that U.S. labor market data is based on two surveys conducted separately each month, one of households and the other of employers, is relatively well known. 

The “official” jobless rate is based on material from the former while employment levels are calculated using the latter, which is also often referred to as “the payroll survey”.

In Canada, both the unemployment rate and jobs numbers come from the Labor Force Survey (LFS), which derives its information from households.

Not as well known, however, is the fact there is also a payroll survey of employers in Canada similar to what is undertaken in the U.S., called the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours, or SEPH for short.

The SEPH data makes its way into Statistics Canada’s monthly Payroll Employment, Earnings and Hours report.

An important advantage of SEPH is that industry data is available on a more disaggregated basis than in the LFS. For example, there is a breakdown of employment not just according to all retail stores in Canada, or even in food and beverage stores, but in “beer, wine and liquor” outlets.

Since SEPH doesn’t include some categories of self-employed workers, its level of total employment in the country is lower than in the LFS approach. But the direction of change is the same.

It’s interesting to look at the greater detail on employment in Canada in the SEPH series and to spot changes over time.

The following will concentrate on some of the more interesting ways to make a living these days.

In what follows, a comparison will be made between 2012 annual results and levels at the turn of the century, the year 2000.

A benchmark to keep in mind is the percentage increase in total employment over that dozen years – approximately +25%, or an increase of one-quarter.

Some trends may seem obvious, but surprises do pop up with regularity. 

Employment in forestry, logging and support services between 2000 and 2012 fell by 44%, but jobs in oil and gas extraction increased 62%. There are now three workers in the latter category for every two workers in the former.

Jobs in construction have increased by 65%. Employment in utility system construction has doubled, but it has stayed almost flat (+5%) in highway, street and bridge work.

2012’s number of jobs in manufacturing was 27% lower than 12 years before. The decline in motor vehicle manufacturing was even more dramatic, -33%.

In other transportation categories, aerospace products and parts employment has fallen by 24%, while the number of jobs making railroad rolling stock has been cut in half.

Ship- and boat-building employment has fallen by 40%, but the nearly $30 billion in contracts awarded by National Defence Canada to shipyards in Saint John and Vancouver – with work to be carried out over the next 30 years – will help reverse the decline.

Due to outsourcing of work to cheaper labor-cost nations in Asia, the number of individuals making computer and electronic gear in Canada dropped by 37% from 2000 to 2012.

Let’s move on to retail trade (+30%), where the underlying numbers are more upbeat.

Employment in the segment of the auto industry that interacts directly with the buying public (i.e., dealers) was +25% in 2012 versus 2000, the same as for all employment in the country.

Furniture and home furnishings store employment was +31%. In a related area, electronics and appliance store jobs were +21%.

Jobs at building material and supply stores were way up, +120%. This has been due to the influx of “big box” stores (Home Depot, Lowe’s Home Improvement, etc) from the U.S. 

Grocery store employment was +31%. What about job opportunities at the aforementioned beer, wine and liquor stores? Seems they bubbled up nicely, +61%. 

Jobs at gasoline stations, however, are going nowhere, only +1% from 2000 to 2012.

Leaving retail and considering some other categories, employment in “scheduled air travel” (+14%) has increased to about the same degree as in the trucking sector (+12%). Rail transportation (-21%), however, is providing fewer positions.

Have you been frustrated lately while trying to hail a cab? It may be because employment with taxi and limousine services has declined by 13% since the new millennium. 

Contrary to reports of its demise, publishing has provided an 8% increase in employment, although it’s all been in the software side of the business (+69%), as “newspaper, periodical, book and database publishers” have reduced staff by 12%. 

Radio and television broadcasting employment was +16%. Work in the smaller “pay and specialty television” sub-sector has been an invigorating +238%.

What about employment among the professions? Last year, there were 27% more workers in legal services than in 2000, an increase slightly higher than the nation’s overall employment gain.

“Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services” employment was up a solid 42% and the number of jobs in architectural, engineering and related services was ahead by a more than respectable 50%.

This may be hard to believe, given what seems to be a constant bombardment on the senses, but the roster of workers in advertising, public relations and related services was only 5% higher in 2012 than 12 years previously. 

The increase in employment in educational services (+25%) was the same as for the grand total, although the university sub-component (+47%) outpaced all the other sub-categories.

Health care and social assistance employment was up 37%, led by home health care services (76%), out-patient care centres (+67%) and medical and diagnostic laboratories (+55%).

The number of jobs in all hospitals was +18%, but at psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, the increase was a higher +47%. Employment at nursing and residential-care facilities was +56%.

On the heels of a severe downturn in the recession, traveler accommodation employment (i.e., hotels and motels) was only 3% higher in 2012 than in 2000, but the number of jobs at food services and drinking places was +27%. 

Do people seem to have brighter smiles these days? More powerful “choppers”? It may be because employment in dental offices was +43%.

A final category to consider is employment in the gambling sector – or at least the portion of it that’s legitimate. The number of jobs in 2012 was a perhaps deliberately conservative +23% versus 2000.

There is much more to report from the SEPH database. It will provide more “talking points” for future Economy at a Glances.

Alex Carrick

Find Canadian construction-related economic articles in Canadian Construction Market News and in the Economic Outlook section of Daily Commercial News.