Nearly 40% of Canada's unemployed have 'given up'

Nearly 40% of unemployed Canadians have ‘completely given up’ looking for work

Kevin Makra|

A new research report presented to the Economic Club of Canada on May 23rd reveals some startling numbers. 39 % of Canadians who do not have a job have completely given up looking for a job. As well, 36% of unemployed people say they have not gone on a job interview in the past month.

The survey was conducted by Harris Poll for Express Employment Professionals from April 9 through April 21, 2014, and polled 1,502 unemployed Canadians age 18 and older. Read the full report “State of the Unemployed” results. [Opens as a PDF.]

“The results of this survey should serve as a wakeup call to policymakers that some unemployed Canadians are falling behind,” said Bob Funk, CEO of Express Employment Professionals, an international staffing company. “If left unchecked, they could fall into a trap of prolonged unemployment and risk being left out of the workforce entirely.”

Some detailed numbers from the survey include:

Job seekers remain hopeful despite many unemployed have quit looking for work.

  • 39% of respondents agree with the statement, “I’ve completely given up on looking for a job.” (5% said they “agree completely,” 5% “agree a lot,” 11% “agree somewhat,” and 17% “agree a little.”)
  • 86% agreed with “I’m becoming more discouraged the longer I am unemployed.”
  • However, 93% agreed “I’m hopeful that I will find a job I really want in the next six months.“

Many respondents say no jobs are available.

People want to find employment, but increasingly believe there is little they can do to find it. When asked what is holding them back from finding a job, 44% say there are no available jobs.

  • Two-thirds report 2 or fewer interviews in the prior month with 36 per cent reporting not having any job interviews in the last month. 61% of respondents unemployed for more than 2 years report no interviews in the prior month.
  • 13% say their last interview was in 2012 or before.
  • 94% agree that they are “working hard to find a job.” But 32% say they spent five or fewer hours looking for work in the last week. 8% spent more than 31 hours looking.

Moving to another province or getting more education are not the answers.

  • 37% are “not at all willing” to relocate to a new city or town for a job. 62% are not at all willing to move to another province to find work.
  • 51% have no plans to go back to school. 13% are currently enrolled in classes and 10% have already attended classes or earned a new degree.

A similar survey in the United States is cause for even more concern. 47% of unemployed in the U.S. have completely given up looking for work, versus 39% in Canada. As well, 46% in the U.S. report not having gone on any job interviews in the previous month, versus 36% in Canada.

What Can Job Seekers Learn From This Report?

First and foremost, if you are having difficulty finding employment you are not alone. Many believe Canada’s jobless rate is understated since ‘discouraged workers’, or those given up looking for work, are not counted in Statistics Canada’s numbers. Don’t get discouraged if you are not getting the results you expect in your job search.

“This survey should give policymakers and Canadian leaders a greater sense of urgency to focus on the singular goal of creating jobs,” Funk said. “The unemployed remain hopeful, but the longer they stay unemployed the harder it is. I encourage those looking for work to stay committed and to use all available resources available to them.”

Kevin Makra is the President of Sentor Media Inc., and founder of He can be reached at

Category: Career Dilemmas, Latest News & Advice
  • David Gay

    This is why I keep telling people not to take the unemployment rate at face value. The unemployment rate is the percentage of people actively seeking work against the total labour workforce. We should concentrate more on underemployment and employment disparity.

    I agree completely that you should keep looking for work and not give up. I’ve been out of work since January 2010 and the best I’ve landed is part time gigs while couch-surfing from city to city. I’ve lost my career, my home, the good times. I doubt I’ll ever get those things back that I’ve lost, but I know jobs just do not land in your lap. You have to go out there and do anything you got a skill to do. I worked in I.T. for 20 years but survived by delivering flyers, working in a mailroom, shovelled snow, cleared downed tree branches from the last ice storm, helped a company move from Toronto to Kitchener. Hell, I’ve even begged for money and for work online. I’m never too proud to try anything. You have to do what you can to survive. The advice given in this article is a great starting point if you are in the can as bad as I am right now.

    • RR

      Keep your chin up. In all labour there is profit.

      • David Gay

        Thanks for the advice. For now, I’ll settle for any money earned that buys food or cleans my interview suit.