High numbers of job vacancies in Canada persisted this past August

Shelby Thevenot
Published: November 7, 2021

Job vacancies in Canada remained above pre-COVID levels this past August, especially in sectors like food services, health care, and tech.

Statistics Canada estimates there were 871,600 job vacancies in Canada, the highest amount of the year, and a jump from the previous month when 805,500 job vacancies were reported.

"While high job vacancies can be an indicator of growing employment, they can also be a signal of high turnover, labour shortages or mismatches between the characteristics of vacant positions and those of available workers," the report says.

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Job vacancies in professional, scientific and technical services reached a record high of 61,100 in August. This is 66 per cent higher than the number of vacancies in the third quarter of 2019. Employment growth continued in this sector as it was one of the least-affected by public health measures.

The accommodation and food services sector, on the other hand, was still struggling to recover. Job vacancies were at an all-time high. Employers in this sector were actively recruiting for 156,800 jobs in August. As public health restrictions eased, and restaurants could open, employers found it difficult to call back staff or hire new workers. According to the Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, about 42 per cent of business reported they had at least one vacancy higher in August than they did before the pandemic.

Health care and social assistance had nearly twice as many job vacancies in August compared to the third quarter of 2019. There were about 121,300 unfilled positions in the sector, compared with 66,100 in the third quarter of 2019.

Before the pandemic, employment in the health care and social assistance sector had been on an upward trend, in line with the aging population. After the initial shutdown in March 2020, employment in the sector reached a low in May, and trended back up again to surpass pre-COVID levels in February 2021.

Job vacancies for registered nurses, and registered psychiatric nurses increased the most in the second quarter of 2021 compared with 2019. Nearly half of the vacancies for this occupational group were open for 90 days or more.

Labour shortage are nothing new for Canada. Since before the pandemic, Canada has been facing an aging population and a low birth rate.

"Unfortunately because of our aging population, labour shortages are here to stay," Pierre Cléroux, chief economist of the Business Development Bank of Canada says in a study on Canada's labour market.

The report offers four reasons for why labour force growth is slowing. Baby boomers are leaving the labour market faster than new workers can replace them. Retirements are expected to remain high until at least 2026. Young people are taking much longer to complete their education and begin their careers. And although immigration helps compensate for the number of people leaving the labour force, it is not enough to maintain labour force growth.

The report says that Canada could add almost two million workers to the labour force if it better integrated youth, immigrants, and offering incentives for older workers to stay, like more workplace flexibility and phased retirement options.

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