Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH)

Detailed information for November 2022





Record number:


The Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours provides a monthly portrait of the amount of earnings, as well as the number of jobs (i.e., occupied positions) and hours worked by detailed industry at the national, provincial and territorial levels.

Data release - January 26, 2023


The Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH) provides a monthly portrait of the amount of earnings, as well as the number of jobs (i.e., occupied positions) and hours worked by detailed industry at the national, provincial and territorial levels.

SEPH data provide the principal input to labour income estimates; they also serve as a proxy output measure for about 15% of real gross domestic product and 'nominal' gross domestic product. SEPH data are also used by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), to revise the maximum pensionable earnings and retirement savings plan contribution limits, and by the private sector, for contract escalations and wage rate determinations.

Monthly survey estimates are produced by a combination of a census of payroll deductions, provided by the Canada Revenue Agency, and the Business Payrolls Survey (BPS), which collects data from a sample of 15,000 businesses.

SEPH has started integration as part of Statistics Canada's Integrated Business Statistics Program (IBSP) to provide a more efficient model for producing economic statistics. The program changes ensure that SEPH will continue to produce a consistent and coherent set of economic statistics while using a standardized approach for economic surveys conducted at Statistics Canada through the IBSP. With the initial integration to the IBSP, concepts and questionnaire content have been harmonized, and common processing methodologies have been adopted.

Statistical activity

Together, four surveys tell a more complete story of current labour market events. These surveys are: the Labour Force Survey (LFS, record number 3701), the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH, record number 2612), Employment Insurance Statistics (EIS, record number 2604), and the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey (JVWS, record number 5217). Every month, the LFS provides timely data on the labour market, including the unemployment rate and demographic analysis. Later on, the SEPH report shows greater detail on non-farm industry employment and earnings. EIS provides substantial detail on Employment Insurance benefits by geography, socio-demographics and former occupation. Every quarter, the JVWS provides detailed information on job vacancies by occupation and economic region.


  • Employment and unemployment
  • Hours of work and work arrangements
  • Industries
  • Labour
  • Wages, salaries and other earnings

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The program's target population is composed of all businesses in Canada that have at least one employee and, thus issued at least one payroll deduction remittance during the reference month. Excluded are businesses that are primarily involved in agriculture, fishing and trapping, private household services, religious organizations, international and other extraterritorial public administration and military personnel of defence services.

Instrument design

The electronic questionnaires (education and non-education versions) were last revised in 2019. At the same time, the paper questionnaires were eliminated. Testing was conducted by the Questionnaire Design Resource Centre (QDRC) with respondents. The electronic questionnaire was prescribed, according to Section 7 of the Statistics Act, and approved by the Chief Statistician. Data collection for the BPS is fully integrated into the Business Collection Portal of Statistics Canada.


Two of the variables of interest are collected by census method: total number of employees for the last pay period of the month and gross monthly payrolls are extracted monthly from the Canada Revenue Agency Payroll Deduction (PD7) administrative source. The payroll deduction source includes all employers with remittances for employee income taxes, CPP/QPP, and Employment Insurance contributions.

Payroll Deduction data are spread across provinces and industry using the enterprise profile in the Statistics Canada Business Register. The Business Register (BR), is a list of all businesses in Canada, updated each month by Statistics Canada, using data from various surveys, business profiling and administrative data.

Other key variables, including number of hours worked, are collected by the Business Payrolls Survey (BPS) which collects monthly data directly from a sample of establishments drawn from the BR. The initial BPS sample is made up of 15,000 establishments out of a population of 1.1 million establishments. The sample is stratified according to geography (province), industry (North American Industry Classification System, level 3 or 4) and number of employees in the establishments. Some units are permanently in the sample; most remain in the sample for one year only. Every month, one-twelfth of the sample is refreshed. Once removed from the sample, most units remain out of sample for at least one year.

Data sources

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents, extracted from administrative files and derived from other Statistics Canada surveys and/or other sources.

The statistics compiled by SEPH are based on a census of administrative records for all in-scope establishments with employees that can be found on the Business Register. Administrative information for total gross monthly payrolls and the total number of employees for the last pay period in the month are obtained from payroll deduction (PD7 form) accounts maintained by Canada Revenue Agency.

Information for general government services is provided to SEPH on a monthly basis by the provincial, territorial and federal governments in the form of electronic files extracted from their payroll records. A BPS questionnaire, adapted for the public sector, is used to collect data for government entities not included in the electronic files.

The Business Payrolls Survey (BPS) conducted monthly, is used to collect SEPH variables not available from administrative sources. The BPS uses a combination of methods for data collection to permit maximum flexibility for respondents. For Internet data collection, invitations and access codes are emailed each month to employers' payroll offices. For respondents who prefer to be surveyed by telephone, computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI) are used. Reporting units that do not respond to the initial contact are telephoned by staff of Statistics Canada's regional offices.

Administrative Data Sources:

Payroll Deduction forms (PD7) file
Payroll Deduction accounts file (PAYDAC)
Obtained under Section 24 of the Statistics Act

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s).

Error detection

For the administrative portion of the survey, edits and verification procedures at the data capture stage ensure that the data is of the best quality possible. Significant and unusual monthly movements at the micro level are identified using the Hidiroglou-Berthelot method, and are manually corrected, if appropriate.

Both manual and automated editing procedures are employed to detect and correct problematic data provided by the respondent on the BPS questionnaire. Historical edits (weighted and unweighted) are performed at the data collection stage.


For the administrative portion of the survey, there are four methods of imputation:

- impute to zero - set both employment and pay to zero when information from the CRA does not indicate employment activity in the month;
- trend imputation - apply month-to-month movement from non-imputed records with characteristics similar to the prior month's data;
- ratio imputation-imputing by using the relationship among different variables from non-imputed records with similar characteristics;
- mean imputation-imputing by adopting the stratum averages.

For the BPS portion, imputation methods have been adapted to the new methodology using the Integrated Business Statistics Program (IBSP). In the IBSP model, missing data as well as problematic data provided by the respondent are imputed taking full advantage of the availability of administrative and historical data.


The estimation of population characteristics from a survey is based on the premise that each sampled unit represents, in addition to itself, a certain number of units in the population that were not selected into the sample. A basic survey weight is attached to each record to indicate the number of units in the population that are represented by that unit in the sample.

To improve the reliability of estimates, the basic BPS weights are calibrated to ensure that estimates of total monthly payroll employment and monthly payrolls respect estimates from the Canada Revenue Agency Payroll Deduction (PD7) administrative source.

The calibration is done using a generalized regression estimator. The model groups are mostly defined at the national and sub-sector levels (i.e., three-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code or, in a few instances, four-digit); in a few cases, the enterprise size (employment) and the provincial dimensions are used. Regression coefficients, calculated at the model group level, are applied to the estimates of total employment and payrolls from the administrative sources to estimate the additional variables.

The information obtained from the BPS is used to estimate the weekly component of the gross monthly payrolls, the total number of paid hours (regular hours and overtime) and the allocation of hours, earnings and employment for three categories of employees: salaried, paid by the hour and others, such as commission workers.

Non-farm payroll employment data are for all hourly and salaried employees, as well as the 'other employees' category, which includes piece-rate and commission-only employees.

Average weekly hours data are for hourly and salaried employees only. They exclude businesses that could not be classified to a NAICS code by the time monthly processing was completed.

All earnings data include overtime pay, and exclude businesses that could not be classified to a NAICS code. Earnings data are based on gross taxable payroll before source deductions.

Average weekly earnings are derived by dividing total weekly earnings by the total number of employees.

Quality evaluation

Data collection for the BPS is monitored for changes in response rates and failed edit rates.

Coefficients of variation (CV) are analyzed every year to identify the domains having the least accurate estimates. Sampling fractions are adjusted occasionally, to obtain comparable CVs across domains.

A micro-match is performed every month to compare the BPS data with the administrative source data for employment and payrolls. Large differences are looked at and corrected if necessary.

Prior to the release, comparisons with independent sources such as the Labour Force Survey are performed.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data. The G-CONFID software is used to control disclosure of the data.

The results of the SEPH are reviewed using the appropriate security measures complying with the Statistics Act to assure the safeguarding of the respondent's information and to ensure that no enterprise may be identified through the release of the SEPH estimates.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

With each release, data are revised for the previous month to take into account late remitters or additional information from BPS respondents. Users are encouraged to request and use the most up-to-date data for each month.

Each year, additional revision processes are done at the same time as the December monthly revision:

- Seasonally adjusted data are revised back three years.
- Annual revisions to fine-tune some estimates of the previous 12 months.
- Occasionally, historical revisions are done to introduce changes related to concepts, new data sources, revised industrial or geographical classifications, as well as methodology.

Data accuracy

For the BPS portion of the survey, response rates are produced every month. The total response rate for Canada as a whole usually varies between 80% and 90%.

Every month, SEPH coefficients of variation (CV) are produced for all variables and every domain. These CVs take into account the sampling variance coming from the BPS as well as the variance due to imputation of the administrative source.

The CVs are usually very low - less than 5% - for the administrative data component of SEPH (e.g., monthly number of employees and gross payroll). The coefficients are higher for those associated with the BPS (e.g., average weekly earnings, average weekly hours). Quality indicators are included in the data tables for both surveys published regularly by Statistics Canada.

Software used:

Mostly custom programs in SAS for processing
Visual Studio .Net (C#)
Collection: BR collection, BCP, Blaise, EQGS
Imputation: BANFF
Seasonal adjustment: G-Series
Dissemination: B2020, CODR
Disclosure: G-Confid


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