Canadian business association calls federal government to address labour shortages

Shelby Thevenot
Published: August 14, 2019

Canada’s private sector job vacancy rate is maintaining record high levels, and a non-profit business organization is calling for all political parties in the upcoming Canadian federal election to take measures to tackle the labour shortage.

The average job vacancy rate in Canada has been at 3.2 per cent for four consecutive quarters, according to a media release from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). That means 429,000 private sector jobs went unfilled for at least four months in the second quarter of 2019—23,000 more than the second quarter of 2018.

“Although it looks like vacancy measures may have topped out, there are still some under-performing job markets in Canada which, if corrected could still theoretically push the national average rate higher,” the CFIB’s Help Wanted report said.

Vacancy rates are influenced by future outlooks, growth intentions, business size and firm-specific job characteristics.

“We’re also seeing a strong pressure to increase wages in those firms that had vacant positions,” Ted Mallet, CFIB’s vice-president and chief economist, said in the release. “While this rate of job vacancies can be a sign of a growing economy, we don’t want labour shortages to become an obstacle to business success.”

This past quarter employers with at least one vacancy expected to raise the average organization-wide wage levels up by 2.3 per cent, while businesses without any job openings planned for a 1.5 per cent increase.

Geography and industry sectors also play a part in determining vacancy rates.

Vacancies by province

Private sector job vacancy rates were highest in British Columbia and Quebec, tied at 3.9 per cent.

For Quebec this represents 116,000 unfilled jobs, and 74,700 for B.C.

B.C’s vacancy rate has gone up slightly since last year, while Quebec registered a minor decrease from the first quarter of 2019.

Ontario and New Brunswick came in around the national average; Ontario was on par at 3.2 per cent, while New Brunswick’s rise to 3.1 per cent was still slightly below.

Rates are trending up in parts of the country such as Manitoba, where the vacancy rate was 2.6 per cent this quarter. This figure represents 11,500 unfilled jobs.

Prince Edward Island is now at 2.2 per cent after rising 0.2 per cent from the previous quarter, which is more than any other province. Newfoundland and Labrador the job vacancy rate went up to 2.0 per cent.

There was no change in Nova Scotia which has a 2.3 per cent vacancy rate.

Saskatchewan and Alberta's rates have dropped. In Saskatchewan, the private sector job vacancy rate decreased slightly to 2.1 per cent, representing 7,400 unfilled jobs. Alberta also saw a slight decrease to 1.9 per cent, which is the lowest in the country.


Vacancy rate


Unfilled jobs

Quebec 3.9% 116,000
British Columbia 3.9% +0.1% 74,700
Ontario 3.2% -0.1% 169,900
New Brunswick 3.1% +0.1% 7,400
Manitoba 2.6% +0.1% 11,500
Nova Scotia 2.3% 7,100
Prince Edward Island 2.2% +0.2% 1,000
Saskatchewan 2.1% -0.1% 7,400
Newfoundland & Labrador 2.0% +0.1% 3,000
Alberta 1.9% -0.1% 31,300

Variations by industry

The personal services industry maintained the highest vacancy rate at 4.9 per cent. Construction followed at 4.8 per cent. Hospitality came next at a vacancy rate of 3.7 per cent. Then agriculture, enterprise management, professional services, and health services tied at 3.4 per cent.

The information sector had the lowest vacancy rate at 2.1 per cent.

Canadian immigration programs filling labour markets

There are a number of programs available to help connect employers with highly-skilled workers looking to immigrate to Canada.

Express Entry

While not a program in itself, Express Entry is a system used by Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to select economic class candidates for Canadian permanent residency via the following programs:

Some provincial nominee programs are also a part of the Express Entry System.

British Columbia

B.C. Provincial Nominee Program Tech Pilot is for foreign tech talent who want to live and work in Canada’s westernmost province. Candidates with a job offer in one of 29 eligible occupations are entered into a weekly draw to receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA).

The pilot launched in 2017 as a response to the province’s demand for tech talent, and is being extended until June 2020.

Atlantic Canada immigration

The Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program allows employers in one of Canada’s four Atlantic provinces to hire international talent in a relatively short amount of time. Participating provinces include New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

Qualified employers can skip the process of obtaining a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which is needed for most other work permit applications in Canada.

A LMIA is a document that an employer in Canada may be required to obtain in order to show that there is a need for a foreign worker to fill the job, that no qualified Canadians were passed up in favour of the foreign worker, and that the foreign worker will be given a salary and benefits that meet federal and provincial standards.

Rural and northern immigration

The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot addresses the needs of rural communities outside the Atlantic provinces and the province of Quebec. Communities with a population of less than 50,000 that are situated over 75 km from a metropolis will be able to work with IRCC to design immigration programs that support their needs. The Government of Canada has yet to announce details on how candidates can immigrate through this pilot.

Manitoba already has a community driven system in place, and has developed the Morden Community Driven Initiative that is tied to the Express Entry system. Among other requirements candidates must fall within one of the target occupations, which includes:

  • welders
  • carpenters
  • cooks
  • plumbers/pipefitters


The Province of Quebec has its own immigration system outside of Express Entry.

Candidates interested in immigrating through an economic program in Quebec may apply for a CSQ through one of the following avenues:

The Quebec Selection Certificate (QSC) is a document, issued by Quebec’s Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion (MIDI), that declares the holder as a successful candidate to settle in Quebec.

Potential applicants must meet the eligibility criteria laid out in each program in order to receive a QSC.

Find out if you are eligible for any Canadian immigration programs

© 2019 CIC News All Rights Reserved

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