High job vacancies in health care and food services in Canada

Shelby Thevenot
Published: August 2, 2021

Amid increased public health measures in May, Canada's accommodation and food services sector had the highest rate of employers looking for workers, and the health sector had the highest number of open positions.

Canadian employers were actively recruiting for an estimated 671,100 positions in May. For the seventh consecutive month, the health sector had the highest number of job openings in Canada. There were about 107,300 open positions in health care in May, nearly one sixth of all job vacancies. Accommodation and food services had the second-highest number of openings at some 78,000, followed by retail trade which had 73,800 job vacancies.

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The number of vacancies is the estimated number of open positions. A slight distinction from the vacancy rate, which refers to the number of vacant positions as a proportion of all positions.

Quebec, for example, had the highest job vacancy rates among all the provinces in May at 5.1 per cent, according to Statistics Canada's payroll, employment, and job vacancies report. B.C. followed closely behind at 5 per cent, and New Brunswick came next at 4.9 per cent. Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest job vacancy rate at 2.8 per cent.

The accommodation and food services sector had a vacancy rate of 7.8 per cent. This high rate could reflect seasonal hiring, as well as recruitment challenges.

While restaurants were shuttered, and employees forced to take up social assistance, recruiters reported having a difficult time calling back their staff. CBC reports people are re-evaluating their careers and lifestyles, and concerned about their health during the pandemic. The lack of international students who often work in this sector, has also played a part in vacancy rates.

Restrictions became less strict in June. The Labour Force Survey suggests employment in accommodation and food services grew nearly 12 per cent from May to June. "Employment" here refers to the number of people working. Job vacancy rates for June are not currently available.

Immigrants needed to support worsening labour shortages

A recent RBC report suggests Canada will need to rely even more on immigration as retirements and job quitting levels increase.

Economist Andrew Agopsowicz wrote that, during the pandemic, the number of retirements and people quitting their jobs due to dissatisfaction dropped significantly. Now that the economy is starting to recover, the number of job quitters is returning to pre-pandemic levels. Retirements delayed by the pandemic could also pick up in the second half of 2021. These factors could exacerbate labour shortages throughout the summer and fall.

"Canada will increasingly need to rely on immigration and other sources for labour force growth," the RBC report says.

Despite record-breaking immigration targets, Canada has been admitting newcomers at a slower rate in the first few months of the year. Although, intake picked up in June when Canada welcomed about 35,000 new permanent residents. While July figures are not yet released, the opening of the Canada border to approved permanent residents could help increase these numbers.

Although the federal government's immigration target is 401,000 this year, they will need to admit about 43,000 new immigrants per month from July onward in order to achieve this goal.

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