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Women’s employment rate trending below spring highs

Bumpy Ride #1: Labour market data from Fall 2022 shows an uneven recovery for women workers.

November 9, 2022

3-minute read

This is part one of our Fall 2022 Bumpy Ride labour market series update. It presents up-to-date information on women’s economic security, unpacking national-level statistics and identifying emerging economic trends that impact women’s economic standing. More updates to come in the weeks ahead.

Quick takeaway

Women’s employment ratethe number of women aged 15 or over who are employed—was 57.8% per cent in October 2022, an improvement after job losses this summer which were largely concentrated among older women. Women’s employment levels improved between September and October but are still 50,000 positions shy of May totals.

A look at women’s employment since the start of the pandemic

By the end of 2021, employment levels among all women aged 15 and older had finally surpassed pre-pandemic employment levels, led by strong gains among full-time employees, among young women and core-aged workers (25-54 years old) through the summer and fall of 2021.

Employment edged higher in the spring of 2022: women’s employment gains, by and large, tracked those of men, but their employment growth ground to a halt in May. Over the summer, women’s employment declined by a total of 108,000 positions—compared to only 5,300 among men, with older women accounting for almost half of these losses. The labour market rebounded in October, led by full-time employment gains among men. Women’s employment is still 50,000 positions shy of May totals.

Current economic uncertainty, and the uptick in retirements, are predictably weighing on employment rates. Women’s rate of employment hit a recent high of 58.5 per cent in May 2022, close to a previous high of 58.7 per cent recorded in 2008. With summertime employment losses, the rate declined by almost a full percentage point, to 57.6 per cent in August and September, edging up again in October to 57.8 per cent. May 2022 may well be the high tide mark in future, given the continuing impact of population aging on the Canadian labour market.

The employment rate among women aged 25 to 54 years was 81.3 per cent in October 2022, 1.6 percentage points above pre-pandemic levels, just below a historic high of 81.4 per cent posted in May. Employment growth has been outpacing population growth in this key demographic over the past year, the reverse of what’s been happening among workers over age 55.

The recovery among young women has been uneven, to say the least. Overall, youth employment has been on a slight downward trend, declining by 42,600 (-1.6 per cent) jobs since May 2022. Gains among young men (+14,700) have been more than offset by losses among young women (-57,400). The youth employment rate had recovered by fall 2021 but then fell again for young women by 3.1 percentage points this summer to 57.6 per cent, converging with the lower male rate.

As noted, employment losses among men between May and August were not as pronounced as among women, with men’s rate of employment averaging about 65.4 per cent. Interest rate hikes are already impacting the manufacturing and construction sectors in different regions. Employment loss in these male-majority sectors will be likely if, and when, a recession takes hold.

About this update

Logo of Beyond Recovery: Toward a gender-just economy project

This Bumpy Ride Update series is part of a larger project, Beyond Recovery, which is working to support and advance a gender-just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The project’s goals are to document and analyze women’s experiences, with a particular focus on those of marginalized women in hard-hit sectors, and to provide evidence-based policy proposals to ensure those who are most impacted in this pandemic are front and centre in Canada’s recovery. The Fall 2022 update draws on the annual and monthly Labour Force Survey and other related sources of information, highlighting differences between women and men as well as between different groups of women. Considering differences in the experiences of women with intersecting identities is crucial to understanding the impact of the pandemic and efforts to craft a fair and inclusive recovery, attentive to the experiences and struggles of marginalized and under-represented groups.

See the first Labour Market Update, published in May: Katherine Scott, A Bumpy Ride: Tracking women’s economic recovery amid the pandemic. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, May 31, 2022.

This project has been funded in part by Women and Gender Equality Canada.

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