OTTAWA – The employment gap between newcomers and Canadian-born workers continues to narrow as immigrants make up a growing percentage of the Canadian labour force, says new data from Statistics Canada.

According to a Dec. 24 report from Statistics Canada, the immigrant unemployment level is at its lowest since 2006, when the data first started to be collected.

The unemployment rate for working-aged immigrants in Canada is 6.4 per cent as of 2017. In contrast, the unemployment rate for Canadian-born people was five per cent in the same year.

The research released on Dec. 24 looked at the Canadian immigration labour market data between 2006 and 2017. Specifically the findings are based on data from the monthly Labour Force Survey, focused on landed immigrants aged 25-54, known as the "core working-age."

It found that in 2017 the core working-age immigrant employment rate rose to 78.9 per cent, the highest it's been since Canada's data agency started tracking newcomers' employment rates.

This is in contrast to the employment rate of Canadian-born people, which was at 84 per cent in 2017.

Overall, immigrants currently make up 26 per cent of the Canadian workforce, with Canadian-born workers making up the other 74 per cent. The number of immigrants in the Canadian labour force has continued to grow, while the share of the labour force made up of Canadian-born workers has decreased.

"Most of the growth in immigrant employment was in professional, scientific and technical services; finance, insurance, real estate and leasing services; manufacturing as well as health care and social assistance," the report states.

Immigrants to Canada are also more likely to be university educated than Canadian-born citizens. In 2017, 49.5 per cent of the immigrant labour force had university degrees, while 30.3 per cent of Canadian-born workers had degrees.

Among the reports' other key findings:

  • The majority of (66 per cent) of national employment growth between 2016 and 2017 was because of immigrants aged 25-54 and Canadian-born workers aged 55 and older;
  • In 2017, immigrants from the Philippines had the highest employment rate (88.5 per cent) of all groups followed by European-born immigrants (85.7 per cent);  African-born immigrants had the lowest employment rate of all groups, at 72.5 per cent in 2017;
  • Among university-educated immigrants, half of the employment growth in 2017 was attributable to immigrants who have been in Canada for more than a decade; and
  • Nearly a third of the overall 2017 employment gains were attributable to immigrants who have been in Canada for five years or less.

"Immigration plays a critical role to help meet our labour market challenges, grow local businesses and create jobs for Canadians," said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen in a tweet about the StatCan numbers.

He also said that employment is key to the successful integration of newcomers to Canada.

Employment data by region

The research also shows that all provinces have experienced an increase in core-age immigrants since the data collection began in 2006.

British Columbia and Ontario continue to have the largest share of immigrants, while Alberta and Saskatchewan have both seen considerable increases in core-aged immigrants since 2006.

Atlantic Canada’s share of core-aged population composed of immigrants remains the lowest nationwide, at 6 per cent in 2017 up from three per cent in 2006.

Among major metropolitan areas, in 2017 Toronto had the largest share (37 per cent) of Canada's core-aged immigrant population, though this percentage is down from what it was in 2006 (42 per cent.) Meanwhile, other major cities such as Montreal, Calgary, and Edmonton have seen increases in the number of immigrants making up their workforces.

The report predicts that come 2036, nearly half of the Canadian population will comprise of immigrants and second-generation individuals.