Census data do not include postal codes. Therefore, if you have data with postal codes which you want to link to rich data from the Census, the Postal Code Conversion File (PCCF) is probably the tool for you!
The Postal Code Conversion File (PCCF) links six-character postal codes to standard geographic areas such as dissemination areas, census tracts, and census subdivisions. By linking postal codes to standard geographic areas, the file facilitates the extraction and subsequent aggregation of data for selected geographic areas. The PCCF also associates each postal code with a longitude and latitude coordinate to support mapping applications.
Note: The September 2022 update of the Postal Code Conversion File (PCCF) is now available.
New versions of the PCCF are released with each census and aligned with new census geographic areas. Limitations and usage of the PCCF can be explored in the
For even more information about the PCCF series, review this presentation:
As well as this Getting Started Guide.
More things to note regarding the updated PCCF and PCFRF Files:
- The Postal Code Project is responsible for linking the approximately 900,000 single postal codes in Canada to Statistics Canada’s Census dissemination geography (presently 2021 Census geographic areas).
- The term population centre will replace the term urban area. A population centre will be defined as an area with a population of at least 1,000 and a density of 400 or more people per square kilometre. All areas outside population centres will continue to be defined as rural area. This new terminology will be implemented consistently across the Agency.
- Population centre and rural area classification has been added to the file.
- Population centres will be divided into three groups based on the size of their population to reflect the existence of an urban-rural continuum:
- small population centres, with a population of between 1,000 and 29,999;
- medium population centres, with a population of between 30,000 and 99,999;
- large urban population centres, consisting of a population of 100,000 and over.
Postal codes retired before January 1, 2016 are included in a separate file available with the PCCF. The retired PCCF is now being released quarterly so it will be included in each release (where as in the past it was only released every 5 years). The record layout is the same as the PCCF so they share the same reference guide (available above).
The September 2022 update of the Postal Codes by Federal Ridings File (PCFRF) (2013 Representation Order) is now also available. This product, a subset of the PCCF, provides a link between the six-character postal code and Canada's federal electoral districts (commonly known as federal ridings). The "unique link" variable indicates if the postal code is linked to one or more federal electoral districts (FEDs). When the postal code is linked to more than one FED, the "weight" variable estimates the proportion of the population of the postal code that resides within each FED. Learn more by exploring the
The Postal Code Conversion File Plus (PCCF+) is a SAS control program and set of associated datasets derived from the Postal Code Conversion File (PCCF), a Postal Code population weight file, the Geographic Attribute File, Health Region boundary files, and other supplementary data. PCCF+ automatically assigns a range of Statistics Canada’s standard geographic areas and other geographic identifiers based on Postal Codes. The PCCF+ differs from the PCCF in that it uses population-weighted random allocation for Postal Codes that link to more than one geographic area. It also includes options for institutional postal codes and procedures to link partial codes to geographic identifiers where possible.
The PCCF+ also Includes:
- neighborhood income quintile
- immigrant tercile
- health regions and alternate health regions
- Airstage (isolated fly-in communities)
It also outputs a problem file to identify postal codes for: hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, university residences, coroner’s offices, children’s aid societies, public trustees, government offices. Included in this problem file are problem records, diagnostics and reference information for possible solutions.
Note: The latest issue of this publication was the Postal Code Conversion File Plus (PCCF+), Version 7E based on the 2016 census. Although version 7E of the PCCF+ is still based on 2016 census geography, the postal code reference data includes postal codes up to November 2021 and the output includes the 2021 dissemination area (DA) based on a released intercensal correspondence file. The residential flag (ResFlag) and institutional flag (InstFlag) have been updated, as have the air stage offices (up until January 2022).
For more information, review the following resources:
Document:PCCF+Userguide-2021.pdf (1.82 MB)
- this webinar on the Postal Code Conversion File Plus (PCCF+): How it works, when to use it, and how to use it. As well as these slides on setting up and running the PCCF+
- Queen's University PCCF+ Guide
Document:SettingupPCCF+_PowerPoint.pdf (1.4 MB)
There are situations where a postal code can span over multiple census geographies.
- The PCCF file contains a Single Link Indicator (SLI) field to indicate the geographic area with the majority of dwellings assigned to a particular postal code.
- The PCCF+ is a SAS program using a population weighted random algorithm to increase accuracy where postal codes span over more than one geographic area.
Check out this YouTube video on how to use the PCCF+ and SAS (10min)
To learn more about PCCF data, visit the <odesi> repository by going to our main page and clicking on <odesi> website:
Click ‘Browse’ in the top right-hand corner and click through the Geography>Canada>PCCF tabs on the left-hand side.
Explore the documentation to learn more about the PCCF!
Also, check out the following resources:
- Illustrated glossary of the census geography areas
- Hierarchy of standard geographic areas for dissemination, 2021
- Dissemination Geography Unique Identifiers
- Choosing census geography
- Python script to parse the PCCF
- R Script to Extract and Parse the PCCF Database
To access the data please follow the steps below:
- Read Carleton University's End-Use Licence Agreement for Postal Code Conversion Files;
- Then, contact Data Services.