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Stats Canada: Unemployment rate in July higher for South Asian, Arab and Black Canadians

Ottawa – A key aspect of the COVID-19 economic shutdown and the associated labour market shock has been unprecedented increases in unemployment, including a historically high unemployment rate observed in May (13.7%). After falling for two consecutive months, the unemployment rate in July was 10.9% for the population aged 15 and older.
The national unemployment rate disguises significant variation across population groups. When unadjusted for seasonality, the national unemployment rate for those aged 15 to 69 was 11.3% in July. Several groups had rates of joblessness significantly above this average, including South Asian (17.8%), Arab (17.3%), and Black (16.8%) Canadians. Among South Asian Canadians, women (20.4%) had a significantly higher unemployment rate than men (15.4%). Black women also had a higher unemployment rate than Black men (18.6% vs 15.1%).
For several population groups—including West Asian, Korean and Japanese Canadians—it was not possible to calculate separate unemployment rates with the current LFS sample size.
Among those who were not a member of a population group designated as a visible minority and who did not identify as Aboriginal, the unemployment rate was 9.3% in July (not adjusted for seasonality).
South Asian and Chinese Canadians experience large COVID-related increases in unemployment
Over time, LFS data produced using a new experimental data integration method will be used to examine various aspects of the labour market situation of diverse population groups. Initially, development and refinement of the method has been focused on adding to an understanding of the impact of COVID-19 through a comparison of year-over-year changes in the unemployment rate.
Based on data from this method, South Asian (+9.1 percentage points) and Chinese (+8.4 percentage points) Canadians experienced relatively large increases in their unemployment rates from July 2019 to July 2020.
The year-over-year increase in the unemployment rate was somewhat lower among Black Canadians (+6.3 percentage points) and Filipino Canadians (+6.2 percentage points). Among Filipino Canadians, the labour participation rate—a measure of the proportion of the population aged 15 and older who are either employed or unemployed—declined by 7.5 percentage points year over year. This suggests that a relatively large proportion of Filipino Canadians who lost employment as a result of COVID-19 have at least temporarily left the labour force rather than looking for new work.
The year-over-year unemployment rate increase was the smallest (+4.4 percentage points) among those who were not in a population group designated as a visible minority and who did not identify as an Aboriginal person.
Elevated unemployment rates among population groups may reflect disparities in employment by industry
The higher July unemployment rate of population groups designated as visible minorities may in part be attributable to their greater concentration as workers in some of the industries hardest hit by the COVID-19 economic shutdown. For example, from February to April, employment in the accommodation and food services industry dropped by 50.0%, more than in any other industry. Based on data from the 2016 Census, the proportion of people employed in this industry was highest among Korean (19.1%), Filipino (14.2%) and Southeast Asian (14.0%) Canadians, compared with 5.9% among those who were not a member of a group designated as a visible minority and did not identify as Aboriginal people.
Differences in unemployment rates may also reflect differences within industries in the likelihood of some groups losing employment as a result of COVID-19 and subsequently returning to work. In retail trade, for example, LFS data collected in July show that members of groups designated as visible minorities accounted for a lower proportion of employment in the month (24.6%) than of the pool of people who last worked in retail trade and were unemployed (35.8%).
Many Filipino and Black Canadians work in health care and social assistance industry
While COVID-19 led to significant job losses and an increase in working from home, many Canadians continued to work at their usual workplace, including in industries, such as health care and social assistance, which entail a high degree of physical proximity to others and a corresponding risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Filipino and Black Canadians make a significant contribution to the health care and social assistance industry. Nearly one-quarter (23.6%) of employed Filipino Canadians and one-fifth (20.3%) of employed Black Canadians worked in this industry in July, compared with 13.7% of all workers. For both groups, the importance of health care and social assistance as a source of employment was essentially unchanged from the 2016 Census.
Within the health care and social assistance industry, Filipino employees earned an average of $26.86 per hour in July, while Black employees earned $23.36 per hour. Health care and social assistance employees who were not a member of a group designated as a visible minority and not Aboriginal earned an average of $29.90 per hour.
Upward trend in employment rate continues in July for very recent immigrants
The employment rate among very recent immigrants (five years or less) rose for a third consecutive month in July, up 2.1 percentage points to 60.5%, entirely driven by a decline in the size of this population group (not seasonally adjusted). The month-over-month increase in this group’s employment rate was greater than the increases observed among landed immigrants of more than five years (+0.8 percentage points to 54.5%), and those born in Canada (+0.9 percentage points to 59.1%).

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