March 7, 2022

Weekly EconMinute—Labour force participation by age

In this week’s EconMinute, we’re talking about labour force participation by age.

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It has long been said that Albertans are very active in the labour market. At its 2008 peak, labour force participation was 75%, around 7% points higher than Canada’s average. Since then, it has slowly declined to around 69% as of 2021 compared with 65% nationally. Even after this decline, Alberta continues to have the highest participation rate and employment rate in Canada.

This difference is often attributed to Alberta having a relatively young population, as well as a greater eagerness to work. While there is some truth in the first claim, there is little evidence of the latter.

Interestingly, there is also another factor at play: Albertans are slower to retire.  While Albertans are somewhat slower to join the labour market­­—perhaps solely focusing on post-secondary education during this time—they also tend to retire later in their careers.

Here is how labour force participation breaks down by age:

  • Young Albertans (age 15-24) are somewhat less likely to be working, or looking for work, than their counterparts in other provinces: 62% compared to 64%.
  • Primary working-age Albertans (those likely to have completed education and training but be pre-retirement) are about as likely to be active in the labour market as peers in other provinces. In other words, they do not show a greater eagerness to work.
  • However, those who are 50 and over are more likely to continue working in Alberta than they are in other provinces. The gap becomes especially pronounced for individuals over 60.
    • For instance, though just 58% of those age 60 – 64 are still working nationally, 62% of Albertans remain in the labour force.
    • In other words—whether due to better health, greater fulfillment from their career, or for financial reasons—Albertans are slower to retire.

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