New Poll Shows Canada’s Unemployed are Increasingly Stuck

EEP-CAN-State-of-Unemployment-InfographicThe State of Canada’s Unemployed-Third Annual National Survey: 36% Have Given Up Looking for a Job

Express Employment Professionals recently released the third annual State of the Unemployed national survey which shows Canada’s unemployed are increasingly stuck-with difficulty getting interviews and work. Canada’s unemployed are now out of work for an average of 16 months, compared to 14 months in 2015. Nearly half (44%) have not had a full time job in more than a year.

The survey results confirm that a significant number of unemployed Canadians have completely given up looking for a job. It also confirms that minimum wage may not be an attractive solution. Additionally, a majority of unemployed university graduates say they wish they had gone to vocational school.

The survey of 1,892 Canadians from May 5 to May 31, 2016, was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals.

More than half of the unemployed (54%) say they believe the country is going in the wrong direction. They believe the election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will either have no impact or be slightly positive, while they generally believe provincial governments have little impact. The unemployed are most pessimistic about the provincial government in Alberta.

“The annual State of the Unemployed in Canada survey is unique in that it provides Canadian employers and policy makers with critical insight into how we can get people back into the workforce. With 37 franchises across Canada, Express wants to understand the challenges unemployed Canadians face and what would inspire and incentivize them to re-join the workforce,” said Bob Funk CEO of Express Employment Professionals. “This year’s poll confirms that the unemployed in Canada are increasingly stuck. They are having difficulty securing a job and the challenge is getting harder. We need businesses and labour joining together to teach more skills to workers, especially to young people. There are high-paying trade jobs available, but there are not enough people with the skills needed.”
Highlights of the poll:

Given Up

  • 36%t have “completely given up on looking for a job” (38% in 2015, 39% in 2014). Fifty-nine per cent of the long-term unemployed (more than two years) have given up.

Lack of Interviews

  • 49% have not had an interview in the last month.
  • 25% of total unemployed have not had an interview since Q4 2014 or earlier.
  • 44% have not had a full time job in over a year.

Job Search Effort Level

  • 82% find it hard to keep effort level high in their job search.

Vocational Skills

  • 63% of unemployed university graduates wish they had a vocational skill.

Minimum Wage is Not a Viable Solution for the Unemployed in Canada

  • 74% “don’t apply for jobs that offer minimum wage because it’s just not enough to pay the bills.”

System Benefits the Rich

  • 85% believe that “the economic system set up in Canada only benefits the rich.”

View on the Impact of Government Policies Creating Jobs

Prime Minister Trudeau

  • 42% say his election will have no impact.
  • 40% say his election will have a positive impact.
  • 18% say it will have a negative impact.

Alberta government policies

  • 37% negative impact
  • 35% no impact
  • 27% positive impact

Saskatchewan government policies

  • 42% no impact
  • 38% positive impact
  • 20% negative impact

Ontario government policies

  • 53% no impact
  • 24% positive impact
  • 23% negative impact

BC government policies

  • 56% no impact
  • 23% negative impact
  • 21% positive impact

Employment Insurance Remains Popular

  • Seventy-four per cent of unemployed Canadians believe employment insurance gives them a cushion so they can take their time to search for a job (76% in 2015, 77% in 2014). Sixty-seven per cent say it allows them to take time for themselves (75% in 2015 and 74% in 2014).

The Unemployed in Canada – Who They Are

According to the survey, 55% of the unemployed are men; 45% are women.

The largest group of the unemployed is the youngest age group:

  • 34% are ages 18-29
  • 24% are ages 30-39
  • 23%t are ages 40-49
  • 14% are ages 50-59
  • 5% are 60 or older

The majority lack a university degree:

  • 12% did not complete high school
  • 29% received only a high school diploma
  • 10% completed trade certificate or diploma
  • 21% have a certificate or Diploma from a Community College, CEGEP
  • 9% attended university but did not receive a degree
  • 5% hold an associate degree
  • 9% hold a bachelor’s degree
  • 5% have a graduate degree

According to Statistics Canada, there are approximately 1.4 million unemployed Canadians. The total labour force was estimated to be 19.4 million. The labour force participation rate, or those actively engaged in the labour market, continues to hover around 66 per cent.


This study was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals and included 1,892 Canadian adults age 18 or older who are unemployed but capable of working, whether or not they receive employment insurance. Excluded are those who are currently retired, choose to stay at home or are unable to work due to long-term disability.

Results were weighted as needed for age by gender, education, race/ethnicity, region and household income. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. Totals may not equal the sum of their individual components due to rounding. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.

Survey Methodology

  • Memo from Harris Poll – PDF
  • Study by Harris Poll – PDF
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