Canada had an all-time high of 912,600 job vacancies in the third quarter of 2021, according to a new Statistics Canada report.
This occurred as Canada’s economy continued to recover amid the easing of public health restrictions. The record-high level of job vacancies was due to growth in overall employment and falling unemployment.
Statistics Canada notes the 912,600 job vacancies in Q3 2021 was 62.1 per cent higher (349,700 more jobs) than in Q3 2019. Proportionally, the largest increase in job vacancies was in Saskatchewan, followed by Quebec, and Ontario.
Job vacancies increased in 18 out of 20 major industrial sectors between Q3 2019 and Q3 2021. Five sectors accounted for nearly 68 per cent of the increase: accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance, construction, retail trade, and manufacturing.
Health care and social assistance is facing significant labour force pressure. There were 118,200 vacancies in Q3 2021, and payroll employment reached pre-COVID level in December 2020 which indicates the sector is facing challenges with respect to unmet labour demand. Even prior to the pandemic, there was a growing need for workers in this sector due to Canada’s aging population. Nurse aids, orderlies, and patient service associates (24,100) and registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses (22,800) were among the occupations with the most vacancies in Q3 2021.
Accommodation and food services accounted for almost 25 per cent of the increase in all job vacancies over the past two years. Statistics Canada explains the higher level of job vacancies was likely due to staffing challenges related to businesses reopening in the sector over the summer and the sector usually experiencing stronger labour demand over the summer.
One way employers can address job vacancies is by offering higher wages. Statistics Canada explains that the record-high job vacancies has increased attention on the degree to which labour shortages may contribute to upward pressure on wages. Between Q3 2019 and Q3 2021, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is used to measure inflation in Canada, increased by 4.3 per cent. Wage growth exceeded CPI growth in 155 out of 373 occupations for which wage data was available in the comparison period. The largest increases in job vacancies included construction trades helpers and labourers, cooks, retail salespersons, and nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates. The average offered wage for these occupations increased by 9.7 per cent and the average hourly wages for all employees in these occupations increased by 8.4 per cent.
Statistics Canada concluded the report by stating Canada’s labour market conditions have been improving through to the end of Q3 2021. For example, the unemployment rate stood at 6.0 per cent which is within 0.3 percentage points of its pre-COVID February 2020 level of 5.7 per cent.
On the other hand, it is important to observe that Canada is experiencing a resurgence in COVID cases with the Omicron variant also becoming more prevalent. This is resulting in increased public safety measures which may impact Canada’s employment picture in subsequent Statistics Canada research.
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