Job vacancies up almost 10% from last year: StatsCan report

Job vacancies rose nearly 10 per cent between the first quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2018, a new Statistics Canada report has found.

The Job Vacancy and Wage Survey found vacancies were up in 6 provinces, 1 territory

A physiotherapist and occupational therapist help a hip replacement patient sit upright at Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital in May 2018. Jobs in health care and social assistance showed the most growth in vacancies in the first quarter of 2019. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press )

Job vacancies rose nearly 10 per cent between the first quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2018, a new Statistics Canada report has found.

Based on the agency's Job Vacancy and Wage Survey, which surveys 100,000 job locations across Canada, the report found there were 506,000 job vacancies in the first quarter, up 44,000 — or 9.6 per cent — from the same time last year.

It also found that job vacancies increased in six provinces and one territory in the first quarter of 2019.

Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavut all saw increases over the quarter.

"Today's job vacancy numbers continue the upward trend in job vacancies we've seen over recent years," said Brendon Bernard, a labour market economist for job site Indeed Canada.

Bernard noted that the pace of increase in job vacancies is slower than it was throughout 2018 when the economy was posting year-over-year growth around 17 or 18 per cent. 

"So the increase cooled off a little in the first quarter but overall the trend is still up," said Bernard. "That upward trend is really continuing in the big three provinces where labour market conditions have improved in recent years. 

Quebec's growth was the highest at 23 per cent with 21,400 more job vacancies compared with the first quarter of 2018, bringing the current total to 

"The job opening rate in B.C is also really high right now," said Bernard. It saw job vacancies rise 10.1 per cent by 9,300 new vacancies. Ontario's growth was the third highest at 6.9 per cent with 12,400 additional openings. 

Ongoing trouble in Alberta and Saskatchewan

The situation isn't as rosy in the resource-dependent provinces.

In both Alberta and Saskatchewan, the job vacancy rate is below the national average.

"In the end of 2018 we saw real troubles in the resource sector," said Bernard. Although the industry rebounded somewhat in the first quarter, "the job vacancy numbers suggest that employers still are feeling the heat from those earlier issues."

A pumpjack works at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta. Job vacancies dipped in Alberta and Saskatchewan where the resource sector is still struggling. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The survey breaks out job vacancy data by industry as well, showing noticeable decline in the first quarter in mining, quarrying and oil and gas extractions

"That's most likely going to be felt in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and there are going to be ripple effects through the broader economy as well."

Industries with biggest growth

The report found that job vacancies increased in seven out of 10 of the largest industrial sectors in Canada.

Topping the list were positions in health care and social assistance, which increased 9,900 new vacancies, or 19 per cent, over the same quarter last year.

(CBC News)

Positions that fall under the banner of professional, scientific and technical services — which include many high-tech jobs as well as professionals in accounting and law — saw the second most growth in actual vacancies at 9,100, or 28 per cent over that same year.

These sectors were followed by manufacturing, retail trade, and accommodation and food services in the biggest year-over-year growth.

Small businesses hardest hit

While the job vacancies bode well for Canadians with the right skills in most of the country, they pose a challenge for some businesses.

Small businesses are the hardest hit by labour shortages, said Ted Mallett, vice president and economist for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

"For a small firm with only five employees, if they're missing one that's 20 per cent and it has a pretty big effect on their capability to provide goods and services to their customers."

CFIB members report that hiring and retaining workers is becoming a bigger part of their management requirements given rising expectations of workers. "They have to think more carefully about what their compensation practices are, what their workplace practices are," said Mallet.

"Small firms even in some of the smaller cities across the country are beginning to find it difficult to find sufficient numbers of people."

Dylan Saunders, an analyst for Statistics Canada and author of the latest job vacancy report, said nearly four-fifths of all new job vacancies in the first quarter of 2019 were for permanent positions.

"Permanent positions were up from 74.7 per cent of all vacancies in the first quarter of 2016 to 79.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2019."