March Labour Report: Unemployment hits record low

More good news for the Canadian workforce this month as Statistics Canada reports the employment rate in Canada has grown once again for the third consecutive month. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell once again, this time to its lowest rate on record since comparable data became available in 1976.

Last month we shared that older Canadians continue to lack opportunities to jump into the workforce at the same pace as other demographics and that this is a missed opportunity for employers. It seems employers have taken note that this past month's employment growth was primarily led by workers aged 55 and older. Interestingly, this group grew in particular thanks to older women — making up 64% of the total employment gains within this age group last month.

Men, who Statistics Canada considers as “core-aged” (25-54 years old), made up the other side of the equation for the decreased unemployment rate last month with a 6% decrease in their unemployment rate from the previous month to a record low of 4.1%. Unfortunately, their gains did not make up for the losses in core-aged women looking for work in Canada. While there were 18,000 fewer unemployed men reported last month, there was an increase of 32,000 core-aged women reporting unemployment. However, this is fairly typical as this is the primary age group affected by maternity leaves and the current unemployment rate for “core-aged” women is only 0.2% higher than it was pre-pandemic.

While the Canadian workforce continues to enjoy their choice of opportunities, Statistics Canada warns that employment growth continues to outpace population growth as the labour market tightens. “Illustrating the potential for imbalances between labour supply and demand, employment gains since September (+463,000; +2.4%) have outpaced growth in the size of the population aged 15 and older (+236,000; +0.8%) during the same period,” Statistics Canada reports.

Unfortunately, we can’t rely on immigration to help balance out population growth vs employment growth as the unemployment rate among very recent immigrants is also at a historic low. However, Statistics Canada also reports that the unemployment rate of “core-aged” very recent immigrants “remained 3.8% higher than their Canadian-born counterparts,” which is similar to the rates observed pre-pandemic. Ultimately, immigrants remain a viable talent pool for employers — albeit a small one.

The labour underutilization rate also remains low, with less potential for new workers. The labour underutilization rate shows the proportion of people in the potential labour force who are unemployed, want a job but have not looked for one or are employed by working less than half of their usual hours. The size of this group is similar to where it was prior to the pandemic. Statistics Canada suggests, “in both the short term and longer-term, the ability of Canadian employers to succeed in a competitive labour market will depend in part on their ability to tap into all available sources of labour supply, including those Canadians who report that they want to work but are not looking. As the labour market tightens, this pool of potential workers continues to shrink.”

In good news for employers, while the employment and unemployment trends suggest tightening labour market conditions, the job-changing rate — the proportion of workers who remained employed from one month to the next, but who changed jobs between months — held steady at 0.7% last month. Anecdotally, we are seeing Canadian employers start leveraging return to office protocols. With BC being the final province to lift all mask and vaccine requirements last week, we may see more employee churn in the months to come as employees push back on office-only options and seek out hybrid or remote opportunities.

If you’re looking to hire or retain long-term employees, having a strong Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is key. Having a well-thought-out and utilized EVP is the main reason Canadian workers cite for staying loyal and part of why the United States' “Great Resignation” has held off in Canada. Last month 60.1% of survey employees agreed that their current job afforded good prospects for career advancement, compared with 51.9% in 2016. Canadian businesses have been putting in the work, but if you don’t have an EVP for your business yet then check out our 5 steps to build an effective EVP to help get you started.

Recent research from PWC cited upskilling, personal flexibility and inclusion as key drivers for job seekers. In fact, the research reported “job seekers are willing to trade an average of 11.7% of their salary for training and flexibility” and “more than a third (37%) of candidates said they’d be willing to take a pay cut for a chance to learn new skills”. Finally, “62% of job seekers said they’re more likely to apply for a job where a company is openly committed to improving diversity and inclusion in their workforce. That number jumps to 68% among knowledge workers and 72% among the C-suite.” Understanding what job seekers value and what they feel are negotiable are critical for employers dependent on employee acquisition for future growth.

Navigating the new world of work can be challenging for employers. That’s why Agilus is here to help with our finger on the pulse of national and hyper-localized employment trends. Contact us now to help find your next great employee. Or if you’re looking to do some more reading click here to download our 2022 Salary Guide and Future of Work survey with exclusive insights from business leaders across Canada.

Recent Posts

Posts by Tag

See all