Canadian businesses had just under 200,000 vacancies in December, the lowest number since March 2011, when Statistics Canada began collecting job vacancy numbers.
The 199,700 job vacancies reported by Statistics Canada Tuesday represent a decline of 21,000 openings from the same month a year ago. Another way of looking at it is that there were 6.3 unemployed Canadians for every open job.
'The number of vacancies falling below 200,000 casts further doubt on the notion that Canada is suffering from a shortage of workers.'- Erin Weir, economist, United Steelworkers
That compares to 5.7 per vacancy 12 months earlier.
Critics say the data conflicts with reports from the government saying there is a labour shortage.
"Statistics Canada began tracking job vacancies in response to claims of a labour shortage by governments and corporate Canada, but the number of vacancies falling below 200,000 casts further doubt on the notion that Canada is suffering from a shortage of workers," wrote Erin Weir, an economist with the United Steelworkers union, in an emailed statement
"The real problem is a shortage of jobs. … Policymakers should focus on creating jobs and providing adequate benefits to the unemployed, rather than on alleviating phantom labour shortages."
Where you look affects extent of job shortage
The question of whether or not there is a labour shortage depends on where in Canada you're trying to find a job.
The ratio of unemployed people to vacant jobs worsened in every province in December, but the absolute numbers were dramatically different from one province to another.
In P.E.I., Nunavut and Newfoundland and Labrador, the ratio was in the range of 16 to 20 jobless people per job opening. In Alberta and Saskatchewan, with just over two unemployed per job, there is still a need for workers.
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Ontario and Quebec were in the middle, with about seven to nine jobless for every vacant position, while Nova Scotia and New Brunswick had about 11 unemployed for every vacancy.
Among industries, construction had the highest number of unemployed people per vacancy, with more than eight jobless for every vacancy December, the same as a year ago.
"As unemployment patterns in this industry are seasonal, the ratio tends to be highest in the winter months and lowest in the summer," Statistics Canada said.
(Industry-specific data captures only those unemployed who last held a job within the 12 months to December 2013.)
Health care had lowest jobless-to-vacancy ratio
There were fewer vacancies in the manufacturing sector in December, with 6.6 unemployed people for every vacant job compared to five 12 months earlier.
The ratio of jobless to vacancies went up even more in administrative and support services, increasing from 3.7 to 6.1 in the 12 months to December.
The health-care and social assistance sector had the smallest ratio of jobless to vacancies of all industrial sectors at 1.4 unemployed person for every vacancy, because of fewer unemployed people looking for work and fewer job vacancies.
The finance and insurance sector saw the ratio of jobless to vacancies grow from 1.7 to three over the 12-month period.