Labour Force Participation: A Comparison of the United States and Canada

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This note explores the drivers behind the recent increase in the US participation rate in the labour market and assesses the likelihood of a similar gain in Canada. The growth in the US participation rate has largely been due to a pickup in the participation of prime-age workers following a post-recession decline. The prime-age participation rate in Canada, however, did not experience a significant drop following the 2008–09 recession, suggesting that the scope for drawing more prime-age workers into the Canadian labour force is more limited than in the United States. This does not preclude the possibility that the Canadian participation rate could rebound for other reasons, however. Indeed, the Canadian youth participation rate fell following the recession and could potentially recover in response to stronger labour market conditions. While the US youth participation rate also fell following the recession, this continued a long-standing trend decline in this rate, which suggests the recent drop in the United States could be more permanent.