Economic analysis

Canada's population is getting older faster than we thought

The bad news about our greying population in Statistics Canada's revised labour force survey data

Statistics Canada has revised its Labour Force Survey data, and the new numbers suggest that employment growth has been weaker than what we had originally thought: employment increased by only 125,000 during 2014 instead of the previously-announced estimate of 185,000. This is bad news, but not because labour market conditions have been overestimated.

Here are the revised and unrevised unemployment rates since 2005:


And here are the full-time employment rates of those aged 25-54:


I don’t see much daylight between the unrevised and the revised data in these two measures.

Where you do see a difference is in the employment numbers:


If the revised employment rates are the same but the revised estimates for employment are lower, then (as Statistics Canada points out at length) what’s really going on here is that the population estimates have been revised down:


These revisions are not uniform across age groups. Even though the total has been revised down, estimates for the 55 and over population have been revised up over the past few years:


Estimates for the ‘prime’ working age cohort, on the other hand, are sharply down:


Estimates for the 15-24 population have been revised up, but the recent peak and subsequent decline in its size are visible in both the revised and unrevised data:


I don’t see anything here that should change your take on current labour market conditions: unemployment and employment rates haven’t been changed very much by the revisions. There’s not much in the way of bad news on that front.

The bad news is that population aging is happening faster than we thought.