Canada sees job vacancies decrease for third consecutive month, as strong hiring persists

Asheesh Moosapeta
Published: February 28, 2023

December 2022 marked another productive month for Canada’s post-COVID recovery efforts. Total job vacancies fell to 848,000, while payroll employment (the number of people receiving either pay or benefits from their employer) increased as 91,400 positions were filled in the final month of 2022.

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While the Canadian labour market progresses towards increasing payroll employment and decreasing job vacancies, several industries continue to have concentrated and persistent vacant positions in the face of labour shortages. Month-to-month, the effect of these factors has yielded little change in total job vacancies from November (849,200) to December of 2022—meaning that many in demand positions remain vacant and labour is a key concern.

Which sectors continued to have vacancies, despite employment increases?

Note that a job is considered vacant if:

  • A specific position exists;
  • Work could start within 30 days; and
  • The employer is actively looking for workers from outside the organization to fill the position.

Five sectors accounted for 55% of all vacancies in Canada. These were:

  • Health care and social assistance (149,800 vacancies);
  • Accommodation and food services (108,000 vacancies);
  • Retail trade (100,200 vacancies);
  • Construction (77,400);
  • Manufacturing (71,700); and
  • Professional scientific and technical services (58,100).

Health care and social assistance

Most pressing for Canada is the continued shortage of health care and social assistance workers across the country. After seeing positive gains in payroll employment for four consecutive months, problems for this sector rebounded—as vacancies in December increased again by 18,200 positions. This rise in vacancies has almost completely offset the 19,400 workers who had been hired in November.

Total job vacancies in the sector stood at 149,800 as of December 2022—the highest vacancies of any sector in Canada. Moreover, despite a net growth of 190,600 jobs in the last two years, the health care and social assistance industry has seen little change in overall vacancies—a strong sign of demand for these workers in Canada.

Construction

Similarly, Canada’s construction industry saw consistent gains in payroll employment in the last four consecutive months—yet still suffers from persistent vacancies. Total open positions in this sector have been largely unchanged from November of 2022 (79,000 vacancies) and elevated from December of 2021 (61,800)—a strong sign of both increased demand and labour issues in this space as well.

What sectors saw the most hiring in December?

In December 2022, the following sectors saw increased hiring in Canada:

  • Health care and social assistance (+26,500 jobs);
  • Finance and insurance (+13,800 jobs); and
  • Construction (+11,500 jobs).

Of note here, is that of the three sectors that led payroll employment growth in December, two of them (Health care and construction) are also leaders in job vacancies in Canada. This is likely an indication that the recovery process is under way for Canada’s economy but continues to be stymied by the persistent lack of workers in the country—a key driver of the rising immigration numbers forecasted in coming years.

In addition, the payroll employment reported by each of these sectors made up the bulk of gains in employment for their respective industries. This means that the sectors that are driving growth in Canadian employment are also the ones with the most job vacancies—further suggesting Canada does not have the requisite number of people to address this labour shortage.

There are other reasons to believe that both areas will be high growth sectors in the coming months. Though investment in residential buildings has decreased in the last few months (after a high observed between July and August 2022), non-residential construction investment has seen consistent growth in the last year of close to $600 million CAD—a promising sign for the industry, as economic activity at large picks up in Canada.

Similarly healthcare and social assistance is a sector that the government has not just invested in, but also backed with the weight of favorable immigration policies to ensure that Canada has the required number of workers in that industry. In response to growing labour shortages, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has recently removed barriers for physicians to apply for Express Entry; increased the ability of foreign trained medical professionals to become accredited and work in the country; and cut the work experience requirement for permanent residence eligibility for caregivers in half—all in response to the intense labour shortages that plague this vital Canadian industry.

What provinces saw the most hiring?

The payroll employment increases observed in December were concentrated in the following provinces:

  • Quebec (+8,800 jobs);
  • Ontario (+5,600 jobs);
  • British Columbia (+4,600 jobs);
  • Alberta (+3,800 jobs).

Additionally, Newfoundland and Labrador reported a slight decrease in payroll employment (-100 jobs). This comes after a successful November, where the province was able to cut down job vacancies by more than a third.

Overall, while these employment increases are encouraging, they are relatively minuscule in relation to the vacancies that Canada would need to fill in the coming months in order to guarantee its continued economic health.

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