London is number 1 when it comes to people who don't work

Data released by Statistics Canada Wednesday suggests more Londoners than ever before are not participating in the labour force.

The London region has the lowest employment rate for any census metropolitan area in the country

The last tranche of data from Canada's 2016 census suggests only 59 per cent of the London region's population actually works, with a large number of people choosing not to participate in the labour market altogether. It may mean local businesses are struggling to find enough help. (Don Pittis/CBC)

Data released by Statistics Canada Wednesday suggests more Londoners than ever before are not participating in the labour force. 

The final tranche of data from 2016's Census illustrates some significant changes in the local economy, according to Western University sociology professor and demographer Michael Haan. 

"London is a really interesting place," he said Wednesday, noting the London region has the distinction of having the lowest employment rate of any of the census metropolitan areas in Canada. 

"What that means is our labour force is smaller relative to the size of our population than anywhere else," he said. 

Decline in manufacturing

Western University sociology professor and demographer Michael Haan believes the recent downturn in manufacturing led many people to exit the labour market, only to never return. (CBC)

According to 2016 Statistics Canada census data, London region's total employment rate was 59.2 per cent, with a jobless rate of 7.3 per cent. 

If you dig further into the numbers, they reveal there were only about 258,000 people aged 15 or older participating in the labour force, out of a total population of about 405,000.

About 18,000 people were classified as unemployed and while more than 146,000 people were not participating in the labour force altogether. 

"We can all speculate as to why this is, but one of my hunches is the decline in Canadian manufacturing," Haan said, noting that London was one of the epicentres of the country when it came to manufacturing.

"People who had been working in a plant or factory for 30 years, were probably making decent money and when their company closed, they just exited the labour market. They took as an invitation for early retirement and they're gone. So they're not necessarily a viable supply of labour supply anymore." 

"The people are not in the labour force. They don't have work at all. They're not looking for work, they're not trying to do anything in the labour force, they're out. It could be because they're retired, it could be because they're discouraged, whatever," Haan said. 

People working fewer hours, commuting longer

Traffic crosses over the Lions Gate Bridge from North Vancouver into Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday July 2, 2015. Just how long a commute takes will be part of the latest tranche of census data Statistics Canada will release Wednesday. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Workers in the London region are also working fewer hours, 2016 census data suggests. 

The number of people in the London area aged 15 or over who worked full-time for a full year was about 266,000, according to Statistics Canada, while just over 139,000 people worked part-time or part of a year, with the average working age person on the job 43.2 weeks out of the year. 

Haan said the rise in part-time employment revealed in the latest census data has two possible explanations.

"First, work. Just the nature of work in Canadian society is becoming more precarious and people want full-time employment and they can't get it because of how our economy is shifting," he said. 

"The flip side of that is they don't want to work full-time. They want this part-time work and they're happy to have it. People who are working past the age of retirement for example, may not want to crank in 44 hours a week anymore, they want to put in 20."

Haan said London's population is aging with baby boomers coming out of the work force, but the area also boasts a healthy number of young people in the form of the boom echo, or the children of the baby boomers.

The same data also shows those who do work in the London region are taking longer to commute, which Haan said was not a surprise and is in keeping with a similar countrywide trend.