Sask. and Alta. tied for highest provincial percentage of long-term jobs unfilled in 2016, StatsCan says

While many Saskatchewan and Alberta residents struggle to find employment, data released by Statistics Canada suggests there are opportunities in management, health, and science sectors — and these jobs are taking a long time to be filled.

Oil-producing provinces hit hard while territories have highest long-term job vacancy rates in Canada

Oil-producing provinces were the hardest-hit for long-term job vacancy rates in 2016. (Shutterstock)

While many Saskatchewan and Alberta residents struggle to find employment, data released by Statistics Canada suggests there are opportunities in management, health, and science sectors — and these jobs are taking a long time to be filled.

Among Canadian provinces, the percentage of jobs with long-term vacancies is highest in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Another oil-producing province, Newfoundland and Labrador, was third highest. 

At last count in 2016, 986 of 9,300 job vacancies in Saskatchewan were long-term, meaning they went unfilled for 90 days or more. That's 10.6 per cent of all vacant jobs.

In Alberta, there were 42,000 vacant jobs in 2016, 10.7 per cent of which were long-term vacancies.

However, long-term vacancies were more common in the territories than in the provinces. Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut all had long-term vacancies accounting for upwards of 15 per cent of unfilled positions.

The national average in Canada is nine per cent.

Higher-skilled jobs hard to fill

People who have education beyond a bachelor's degree are in demand. Nineteen per cent of job vacancies requiring a high level of education were vacant more than 90 days in 2016.

The numbers don't surprise recruiter Tracy Arno, whose business focuses on sales, finance, marketing and management.

"Tech is a big one that's hard to fill. That's entry level, all the way up to the executive level," she said.
Tracy Arno is the CEO of Essence Recruitment, a Saskatoon-based employment agency (Essence Recruitment)

"We just filled a director of human resources role that took six months, because we needed somebody from the industry to understand the concept of acquisitions, and growth, and publicly traded companies, and just the quirkiness of tech and the culture."

While some skills are transferable to various jobs and industries, not all skills can do double-duty.

Because Alberta is also suffering high long-term vacancy rates, it may be difficult for Saskatchewan to attract highly-skilled workers from the neighbouring province.

According to Arno, relocation is becoming more popular. The last two executive positions she helped fill were with candidates who did not live in the city to which they were applying.

In an emailed statement, the Saskatchewan government said it has four priorities to strike a balance in the labour market. They include aligning skills training with the needs of the economy; engaging under-represented groups in the workforce; retaining skilled workers; and attracting skilled workers to the province.

Re-education a priority, says recruiter

Arno expects long-term vacancies to decrease in the coming years, but to help it along, she believes re-education is key.

"There's going to be a gap, maybe in manufacturing or labour. Maybe a gap from oil and gas. Can employees be re-educated to do something else when it's hard to fill roles? We don't talk about that enough."

For re-education to be useful, though, she says it needs to be quick, efficient and affordable for those in search of a job.

Don't expect job vacancy lengths to decrease dramatically, though.

"The timeline is 45 days," said Arno of an average job vacancy for companies working with her firm.

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