Canada’s employment situation remains fickle.
We’ve added more jobs and the unemployment rate has declined, but people are working fewer hours and the overall labour shortage still sits at more than 1 million unfilled jobs.
According to Canadian Chamber of Commerce Chief Economist Stephen Tapp:
“At first glance, it looked like we finally received good news from Canada’s Labour Force Survey for September: after three months of declines, employment was up by 21,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate dropped back to 5.2% after unexpectedly spiking to 5.4% last month. Digging beneath the headlines, however, shows emerging signs of an underlying “cooling-off” period. First, hours worked are down over 1% since June. Second, labour force participation has sagged over the course of this year, and third, it’s the public-sector, not the private sector, that continues to push up employment. That said, Canada’s labour market remains historically tight. It’s remains difficult for businesses to fill the nearly one million vacant positions they’re seeking. And, though, wage growth exceeded 5% for the fourth month in a row, this still isn’t enough to boost workers’ purchasing power, as it’s below the highest rates of inflation seen in a generation.”
Overall, the public sector added 35,000 jobs, compared to 9,000 from the private sector while self-employment dropped by 22,000. The increase in employment is being driven by education and healthcare at 46,000 and 24,000, respectively. This offset declines from manufacturing (-28,000); information, culture and creation (-22,000); transportation and warehousing (-18,000), and public administration (-12,000).
Wage growth is being led by professional services, up 9.1% year-over-year, followed by accommodation and food service at +8.7% over last year. On average, wages are up 5.2% over last year.
Adding further pressure to workforce challenges is the trend toward retirements shows no signs of slowing, with 1 million of the 5.2 million Canadians aged 55 -64 already retired.
Overall, Ontario and PEI are the only provinces seeing a decline in employment.
Locally, jobs in demand largely hit sectors that have struggled heavily over the last two years, especially the service industry. According to the Workforce Development Board, the top 10 local job postings are for:
1. Retail salespersons
2. Food counter attendants, kitchen helpers & related support occupations
3. University professors and lecturers
4. Home support workers, housekeepers & related occupations
5. Other customer & information services representatives
6. Retail & wholesale trade managers
8. Social and community service workers
9. Post-secondary teaching & research assistants
10. Light duty cleaners
Employment data will continue to fluctuate, as it always has. But it reveals the harsh reality that some sectors are rebounding well while others are going to continue to struggle. Those who regularly had to cut staffing levels due to public health restrictions are struggling to hire enough staff despite being leaders in increasing wages. There is no large pool of workers waiting to return and fill the vacancies across the country. It’s going to take creativity, investment, and vision for local businesses to modernize, automate, and adjust how they operate to make do with less access to labour.