February Labour Report: Continuing scarcity of jobseekers

Working Canadians have reason to celebrate after the February Labour Report from Statistics Canada dropped last week. With an increase of available jobs and an increase of overall hours worked by Canadians — Canadian workers have more opportunity and availability than they’ve had since the pandemic started. However, that also means there’s a major decrease in available talent. and the labour market is squeezed tighter than ever.

The Canadian unemployment rate dropped a full percentage point from 6.5 per cent in January to 5.5 per cent in February. Meanwhile, the employment rate for the core working-age population (25 to 54 years) reached a new record high for women and increased to the highest level it’s been since November 1981 for men.

At the same time, employment rates are hitting historical highs for most demographics — including Indigenous Canadians, visible minorities, and youth.

However, older Canadians continue to see stagnation in their employment rate.

For Canadians who are 55 and older, employment gains in February were entirely in part-time work. While February saw employment growth for older women — nearing its pre-pandemic level for the first time since March 2021 — the overall employment rate for this group remains 1.1 per cent lower than before the pandemic despite the population growth of this demographic.

Older Canadians continue to lack opportunities to jump into the workforce at the same pace as other demographics. This is a missed opportunity for employers looking for employees who can hit the ground running, have little interest in climbing the corporate ladder, and are traditionally very loyal. Whether it’s a contract or part-time hours, the 55 and older crowd are the fastest-growing segments in Canada. To dismiss or overlook these candidates’ potential is ignoring a large section of the available workforce. Older candidates make great roles models and contribute to a robust and diverse work community.

With the relaxation of pandemic-related restrictions across the country, it’s no surprise to see major employment gains in the most-affected sectors – retail, accommodation, food services, and information, culture and recreation. These are also often the most dependent on a living minimum wage.

One of those changes is increasing wages to keep up with steadily rising inflation. According to Statistics Canada, average hourly wages have been on an upward trend on a year-over-year basis since last fall with February seeing a 3.1 per cent increase, up to $0.92/hour compared to February 2021, this past month.

Although the increase in hourly wages is definitely a trend in the right direction, Statistics Canada points out, “In January 2022, Canadian inflation (as measured by the Consumer Price Index) surpassed 5% for the first time since September 1991, rising 5.1% on a year-over-year basis and up from a 4.8% increase in December 2021.” Basically, we’re getting close but we’re not quite there yet.

While the current employment climate in Canada is feeling pretty tropical for most working Canadians, it’s not quite as balmy for those looking to hire. In order to retain their talent, Canadian companies have needed to make some major changes to their Employee Value Propositions (EVP) to stand out in an overcrowded job market.

Interestingly, Statistics Canada notes there have not been any major fluctuations in either the job-leaver or the job-changing rates. While Canadians have not been impacted by the American “The Great Resignation” it doesn’t mean it isn’t still a possibility looming on the horizon as Canada’s employers start to shift back to the office.

“We have seen less impact of the great resignation or reshuffle than our American neighbours, due in part to most of the workforce who can, are still working from home. Employers who can create an effective hybrid work environment as provinces eliminate masks and capacity restrictions will retain staff,” says Craig Brown, CEO of Agilus Work Solutions. “The uncertainty of inflation, continued supply chain challenges and the situation in Ukraine may impact employees’ eagerness to switch jobs in the near future.”

Statistics Canada suggests employers use a touch of caution should they hope to retain their current employees over the next several months. “As employers implement return-to-office plans, a number of factors might influence their ability to attract and retain employees,” Statistics Canada shares. “Including tightening labour market conditions, with low unemployment and high job vacancies; concerns about consumer prices and affordability; and the desire of some workers to retain the flexibility and quality of employment associated with working from home.”

To read Statistics Canada’s full February Labour Report click here, and click here to download our 2022 Salary Guide and Future of Work survey, with exclusive insights from business leaders across Canada.

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