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economy lab

BC Stadium with the Vancouver skyline.JOHN LEHMANN/The Globe and Mail

Nowhere are job prospects for immigrants brighter than in the Prairies, while newcomers in Quebec continue to have the worst labour market outcomes in the country.

A recent paper by Statistics Canada shows Alberta had the country's lowest immigrant jobless rate last year -- and established immigrants (those who have been in Canada for over a decade) had even higher rates of employment than Canadian-born workers.

By contrast in Quebec, employment gaps between immigrants and Canadian-born workers are the widest in the country. The immigrant jobless rate in the province was 11.9 per cent last year, the highest among all provinces and double the rate of Canadian-born Quebeckers.

Immigrants are a vital part of Canada's current and future pool of labour, expected to account for more than 80 per cent of population growth by 2031, compared with 67 per cent now. So it's essential to understand how they are faring, especially given the heated debate about whether to raise, lower or maintain current immigration levels.

The agency's analysis examines how the recession affected immigrants in the labour market -- and finds mixed trends.

The last downturn took a toll on immigrants in the labour market, particularly recent arrivals -- with some of the scars persisting for years.

Take the well-educated, for example. The wage gap between Canadian-born workers with a university education and similarly educated immigrants who have been in the country for a decade or less widened between 2008 and 2011,

As of last year, very recent immigrants (those who have been in Canada for five years or less) in their core age with a university degree earned just 67 per cent of their Canadian-born counterparts' weekly wages. That's down from 70 per cent in 2008, which was the peak year of the labour market.

Recent immigrants (those who landed in Canada between five and 10 years earlier) earned 79 per cent of their Canadian-born equivalent's wages last year, down from 84 per cent in 2008.

The picture is improving among newcomers in the West. Last year alone, immigrants in the Prairies and British Columbia "accounted for more than half of immigrant employment growth," the paper by Lahouaria Yssaad said.

In Manitoba, immigrants are among the most-employed in the country, and their jobless rate, at 6 per cent, was the second-lowest last year. In Saskatchewan, job growth for very recent immigrants doubled between 2008 and 2011.

The analysis also looked at changes by sector. It finds that declines in manufacturing had an impact on very recent immigrants in particular. Employment is growing on the services side, with immigrant employment in the health-care and social assistance sector, along with public admin and professional services now above pre-recession levels.

The success of immigrants in the job market varies depending on where they're from. Core-aged immigrants born in the Philippines had the highest employment rate of all immigrants in the 2008-2011 time period -- even higher than rates among the Canadian-born population. Immigrants born in Europe have the second-highest rates.

It's a different story elsewhere. African-born immigrants had the highest jobless rate of all immigrant groups, and the lowest rate of employment. Outcomes are worst among those who have been in the country five years or less -- their jobless rate hit 21.3 per cent last year.

The biggest increase in jobless rates as a result of the recession came among Latin American workers, who saw their jobless rate hit 10.3 per cent last year.

"Larger proportions of refugees may explain some differences in labour market outcomes, particularly for very recent immigrants from African and South America," Statscan said.