Dictionary, Census of Population, 2016
Appendix 6.1 Comparability of labour force status data from the 2016 Census of Population (long-form questionnaire) and the Labour Force Survey

Release date: May 3, 2017

Both the Census of Population long-form questionnaire and the Labour Force Survey (LFS) collect data on the labour market activities of the Canadian population.

However, there are a number of fundamental differences between the two surveys with respect to:

1. Enumeration method

In the Census of Population long-form questionnaire, the method used for most respondents was self-enumeration; that is, people completed the questionnaire themselves. There were two primary collection methods: a paper questionnaire and an online questionnaire, although in some instances, a respondent may have been asked to complete the questionnaire by an enumerator.

The LFS is administered by experienced interviewers using computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI) or by personal visit from a field interviewer. Since 2015, respondents have the option of completing the survey on-line for subsequent interviews.

2. Coverage

The Census of Population long-form questionnaire, a mandatory survey, includes all people who usually live in Canada as well as persons asking for refugee status, and persons from another country with a work, study or temporary resident permit and family members living with them. The survey excludes people living in institutions such as hospitals and retirement homes. Furthermore, questions on the labour market activities are asked to individuals 15 years of age and over.

The LFS is also a mandatory survey. It covers the civilian and non-institutionalized population aged 15 years of age and over. It is conducted nationwide, in both the provinces and the territories. Excluded from the survey's coverage are: persons living on reserves and other Aboriginal settlements in the provinces; full-time members of the Canadian Armed Forces; the institutionalized population; and households in extreme remote areas with very low population density. The National Labour Force Survey estimates are derived using the results of the LFS in the provinces. Territorial LFS results are not included in the national estimates, but are published separately.

3. Sample size

Approximately 3.5 million households across Canada were selected for the 2016 Census of Population long-form questionnaire. This represents about 22% of all households.

The monthly LFS sample size is approximately 56,000 households, resulting in the collection of labour market information for approximately 100,000 individuals.

4. Reference period

The reference period for the 2016 Census of Population was the week of Sunday, May 1 to Saturday, May 7, 2016. However, all households in the 2016 Census of Population sample in remote and northern areas of the country received the questionnaire between February and April 2016, in which case, the reference period was the week prior to the date on which the household was enumerated.

The reference period for the May 2016 Labour Force Survey was the week of Sunday, May 15 to Saturday, May 21, 2016.

5. Number of questions and their content

The 2016 Census of Population long-form questionnaire included five questions on labour market activities:

There were three possible sequences of questions depending on the respondent's situation. For example, a respondent who reported having worked one or more hours during the reference week was not required to answer the other four questions.

The LFS contains a more extensive set of labour questions. The interview is computer-assisted, which makes it possible to tailor the sequence and content of the questions to the respondent. The method also provides the opportunity to clarify and correct responses as the interview progresses.

The assignment of the labour force status values, e.g., 'employed,' 'unemployed' and 'not in the labour force' can differ between the two surveys because the following individuals can be classified differently:

  1. Self-employed workers
  2. In the 2016 Census of Population long-form questionnaire, self-employed workers who do not report working any hours or being absent from work during the reference week were classified as 'unemployed' or 'not in the labour force,' depending on their responses to the other questions. As well, the 2016 Census of Population long-form questionnaire did not ask respondents the reason for their absence.

    In the LFS, the same self-employed workers may be classified as 'employed' if they attributed their absence to not having any work during the reference week.

  3. Persons on lay-off
  4. In both the 2016 Census of Population and the LFS, persons on lay-off are classified as 'unemployed' if they are available for work, or as 'not in the labour force' if they are not available for work during the reference week.

    According to the 2016 Census of Population, persons on lay-off expect to return to their jobs. No limit is specified for returning to work or for the duration of the lay-off. Seasonal workers are not explicitly excluded from this category.

    According to the LFS, persons on lay-off have been temporarily released by their employers due to economic conditions. They must have a definite date to return to work, or an indication that they will be recalled in the future. The lay-off period must not exceed one year, and seasonal workers are not included in this category.

  5. Students
  6. In the 2016 Census of Population, full-time students looking for full-time work who are not employed and are available for work are considered unemployed.

    In the LFS, full-time students currently attending schools and looking for full-time work are not considered to be available for work during the reference week. They are assumed to be looking for a summer or co-op job or permanent job to start sometime in the future, and are therefore not part of the labour force.

    For more information about the Labour Force Survey, refer to the Guide to the Labour Force Survey, Catalogue no. 71-543-G.

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