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File photo of a Reitman's retail location in Toronto.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

The face of working Canada is increasingly to be found in Hudson's Bay, Target and Loblaws stores across the country.

New data show the most common occupation in Canada, for both men and women, is retail salesperson.

It's a reflection of the growth in the services side of the economy, where people are increasingly likely to be working in Ikea or Canadian Tire than on a factory floor or the family farm.

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Retail jobs may be popular, but they are not as high paying. Separate, recent Statistics Canada payroll data show earnings in retail trade have actually fallen from year-ago levels, and amount to $524 on average a week (by contrast, those in health care or real estate earn more than $800 a week).

Men and women may share the same top job, but the similarities in career choices mostly end there. A breakdown of the 20 most common occupations in Canada shows, even today, gender splits in what men and women do.

For men, transport truck drivers are the No. 2 occupation, followed by retail trade managers, carpenters and janitors. Mechanics, construction workers, cooks, accountants and security guards are also in the top 20.

It's a different picture for women. The second-most common job for women is administrative assistant, followed by nurse and cashier. They also work as elementary school teachers, office support workers, bookkeepers, light duty cleaners and community service workers.

Those types of jobs, in turn, are often lower paying and may partly explain why women still lag men in earnings clout, even as their educational attainment is rising. Academic research "has generally shown that a large part of the gender wage gap can be explained by gender differences in occupations," said Tammy Schirle, economics professor at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Canada's work force is also greying. Workers over the age of 55 now comprise 18.7 per cent of total employment, up from 15.5 per cent in the 2006 census – the result of an aging population of baby boomers and a growing desire (and financial necessity) among older workers to stay in the labour market.

Where we work

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You are far more likely to have a job in Calgary than in Windsor, Ont.

Calgary's employment rate of 70 per cent is the highest in the country, followed closely by Regina and Edmonton – a reflection of how rich resources can spur job creation. It's a different story in auto-heavy Windsor, where the employment rate is just 53.3 per cent – the lowest city in Canada. Tough prospects continue in Windsor this year, where a recent report from the job search engine Adzuna showed the city has 26.8 job seekers for every vacancy.

Two other industrial cities in Central Canada – Peterborough, Ont. and Trois-Rivières, Que. – also have lower levels of employment.

Differences are also clear at the regional level. People are most likely to have a job in Yukon and Alberta, where employment rates are 69.7 per cent and 69 per cent, respectively. On the other side of the country, Newfoundland and Labrador's employment rate, at just 50.7 per cent, is the lowest in Canada.

Those differing pictures suggest people might want to move for work – and indeed the northern territories and Alberta have the highest proportion of people who lived elsewhere five years ago.

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