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Canada. Aboriginal workers hit the hardest by economic downturn

In the economic downturn that began in 2008, employment fell further and over a longer period among Aboriginal people than in the non-Aboriginal workforce. This was true for all age groups.

For example, among Aboriginal people in the core-aged working population (25 to 54 years old), employment fell by 2.8% (-7,300) in 2009 and by 4.9% (-12,400) in 2010.

In contrast, for non-Aboriginal core-aged workers, employment fell by 1.7% (-198,000) in 2009. But in 2010, it rebounded by 0.8% (+93,000).

Declines for core-aged Aboriginal workers were all in full time in both years. For their non-Aboriginal counterparts, the losses in 2009 were all in full-time work, while the gains in 2010 were a combination of full- and part-time jobs.

As employment levels among Aboriginal people continued to decline, the gap between the two populations widened in terms of participation rates (the percentage of people either employed or actively looking for work), as well as rates of employment and unemployment.

In 2010, the participation rate for core-aged Aboriginal workers was 75.0% compared with 86.7% for their non-Aboriginal counterparts. This 11.7 percentage-point gap was the largest between these two groups over the four-year period for which comparable data are available.

Core-aged Aboriginal men fared worse than their female counterparts during this period. The participation rate for Aboriginal men fell 4.5 percentage points to 80.4%, while the rate for Aboriginal women declined by 1.2 points to 70.0%.

Provincially, the employment rate (the percentage of people employed) fell at the fastest pace among Aboriginal core-aged workers in Quebec, British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta during this two-year period. Employment rates among Aboriginal core-aged workers were lowest in Quebec (61.1%) and British Columbia (62.7%).

The decline in manufacturing employment associated with the downturn affected both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. The manufacturing industry posted the sharpest decline in employment for both groups between 2008 and 2010.

Occupations experiencing the largest employment losses for core-aged Aboriginal workers were trades, transport and equipment operators; sales and service workers; occupations unique to processing, manufacturing and utilities; and management occupations.

Employment declined for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in the private sector, among employees and the self-employed. Among Aboriginal people, a higher percentage took on more than one job in 2010 than in 2008 and more were in a temporary job than those in the non-Aboriginal population. Both groups, however, worked fewer hours during this period.

Young people aged 15 to 24 were particularly hard hit by the economic downturn. Participation rates fell among both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youths from 2008 to 2010, but more so among Aboriginal young people.

Between 2008 and 2010, the participation rate for Aboriginal young people declined by 5.0 percentage points to 57.0%. Among non-Aboriginal youths, it fell 2.9 points to 64.8%.

Participation rates fell fastest for Aboriginal young people in Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta. However, as fewer participated in the labour force, more Aboriginal youth were attending school. Ontario, Quebec and Alberta had the largest increase in their school attendance rate.

Participation rates also fell among older Aboriginal workers aged 55 and older. Their rate in 2010 was 34.6%, down 1.4 points from 2008. In contrast, the rate for older non-Aboriginal workers increased by 1.7 points to 36.0%.

Among the older Aboriginal population, the decline in the participation rate was concentrated among First Nations people living off-reserve.

© Statistics Canada -

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