Earlier this month, Statistics Canada published their labour market report for December 2022. You can see my main article of the data here, which is the most comprehensive coverage of Alberta’s job numbers anywhere.
But someone recently asked me about worker absences in Canada, and I noticed that this labour market report had data for that, too, so I decided to look into it.
First, let’s start with hours lost.
In 2022, Canadian workers lost a total of 24,014,300 hours of work due to illness or disability. That’s up 3.9 million hours from 20,157,700 in 2021.
This was, by far, the most hours missed due to illness or disability in Canada since at least 2012 (I went back only 10 years), even compared to 2020, the first year of the pandemic, and 2021, when the first Omicron wave peaked.
That’s not all that’s increased either. Check out the total number of workers who are missing time because illness or disability.
Last year, 455,900 workers missed work due to illness or disability. This up from 409,700 last year and, of course, up from 282,600 a decade ago.
Interestingly, the number of hours missed for each worker who missed work dropped significantly in 2020, during the first months of the pandemic, but that number has been rising the last two years and is already above 2019 levels, although just barely.
But, Kim Siever, you may ask, hasn’t the population increased during that time? Weren’t there more people working in 2022 than in any other year?
Well, dear reader, I’m glad you asked. Check out this chart, which shows the number of hours missed due to illness or disability divided by the total number of workers employed.
If the increase in time off could be explained by the increase of the labour force, then the graph should be pretty consistent. However, we see increases since 2014, with significant jumps in 2020 and 2022
Last year, the average worker employed missed 1.21 hours of work due to illness or disability, the highest number in the last decade. In fact, the only time during this period that this number passed 1 hour per worker has been every one of the last 3 years.
Here’s how the numbers break down by province. First, hours missed
Unsurprisingly, Ontario tops the chart. After all, they do have the largest number of workers. Oddly, however, Québec, Canada’s second most populous province saw the second lowest increase in hours missed due to illness or disability.
Alberta was in third place, despite having only the fourth largest population. On a percentage basis, however, Alberta saw the only the 7th largest increase. Manitoba topped the list there.
And here’s over the last decade:
Here, the numbers better align with population, at least as far as absolute totals go. On a percentage basis, however, Québec drops to last place, and BC and Alberta bump up to second and third place, respectively.
Only 4 provinces—Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and New Brunswick—saw hours missed increase by 50% or more over the last decade.
Now the workers who took time off for illness or disability.
Here, Alberta saw the third largest increase in the number of workers taking time off, but the second lowest increase in the percentage of workers taking time off over the last year.
Over the last decade, however, Alberta drops back down to 4th place for the largest increase in total workers taking time off for illness or disability, but third place between Ontario and BC for the percent increase in the number of workers.
Regarding the how many hours each worker took off, Alberta saw the second largest increase, with the average worker taking off nearly 5 more hours than they did in 2021.
However, PEI workers actually took off fewer hours over the last year, the only workers to do so, on average.
Now check out the last decade.
Alberta saw a decrease in total hours taken off for illness or disability since 2012. Not only that, but it was the largest decrease in the country.
I find it interesting that we went from the largest decrease in time taken off to the second largest increase.
Now if we look at hours taken off due to illness or disability relative to the total number of workers employed in each province, Alberta has the lowest increase over the last year.
Here, Alberta workers were the third least likely to miss work in the country, missing only an extra 9 minutes, on average, compared to 2021.
But when looking at performance over the last decade, Alberta workers jump to fifth place.