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Canadian IT Job Market - Quarterly Outlook

This is a look at the Canadian IT Job market across Canada from our (Eagle) company's perspective. We have offices in 10 cities across the country and our three General Managers have tapped into their market knowledge to write this ... hope you find it helpful. I will stress that this is not a scientific or statistical look at the market ... this is what we see day in day out "in the trenches" of the war for talent across Canada.

Statistics Canada's October Labour Force Survey tells us that Canada's overall employment rose for the second consecutive month in September and the unemployment rate dropped by 0.3 percentage points. The IT job market across Canada is reflecting that trend with lots of positive signs, however results vary by province and industry.

Just as Western Canada was a little late being hit by the recession compared to the East, it was also slower to start showing signs of recovery. Provincial governments in BC, Alberta, and Manitoba are still very tentative in their spending. Specifically, the Government of Alberta has slowed down due to a predicted deficit of over $4.5 billion as a result of lost revenues from the energy industry, in addition to the effects the recession has had on business throughout the province. There are, however, positive signs that the public sector will pick up again in the new calendar year (post April 2010) as the economy and tax revenues strengthen.

The private sector in the West also had some disappointment this past quarter as it did not live up to the expectation of imminent recovery. Companies from regulated industries, though, seemed to have weathered the market turndown better than most, suggesting that they may be among the first to begin spending again.

Each Western province experienced its own trend in the past few months while dealing with the unpredictable economy. In British Columbia, companies have drastically reduced spending, with some increased interest in off-shoring solutions as a way to reduce costs. Hot skills in BC continue to be SAP and Networking/Infrastructure skills.

The recovery in Alberta is happening at a slower pace than one would expect due to low natural gas prices, although, pure play oil companies have gained an upper hand and are starting to be active again. Edmonton is seeing a demand for SAP skills as well as Project Managers and Business Analysts, while Calgary's hot skills include Functional ERP, Agile Project Managers, and resources with Upstream Oil & Gas experience with skills such as PMs and BAs.

Out of all the Western provinces, Saskatchewan, whose economy is still largely based on agriculture and other natural resources, has survived the recession the best, and even showed some growth over the past 12 months. Manitoba, however, saw a decrease in demand for many senior resources such as Project Managers, Business Analysts and Architects. Many of these professionals have been available for new work assignments for an extended period of time or have decided to take work outside the province. The biggest requirement in Winnipeg right now is for .NET Developers.

Overall, the top resource request in Western Canada continues to be for Project Managers and Business Analysts, with a growing interest in SAP resources as projects begin to come back online. The demand for permanent resources is still very low as most of the new staffing activity continues to be on the contracting side, where rates seem to be holding steady.

At this time last year, the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) was seeing a noticeable shift in permanent job opportunities or contracts that would eventually lead to permanent opportunities. While contract work is rising, this trend does not seem to have gone away this year and IT professionals seem to be embracing it as they seek these types of long-term, stable placements.

Overall, the job market in the region continued to see some healthy signs of growth this past quarter, with both contract and permanent work showing positive changes. In the provincial public sector, there was a rise in contractor demand due to a number of government projects being kicked-off and many ministries have started extending existing contracts. This was somewhat tempered by the activities at eHealth which have caused some organizations to adopt a wait and see approach to staffing. We are seeing an increase in demand at financial institutions as they undergo large initiatives such as revisiting their credit systems.

The major event in the GTA this past quarter was Showcase Ontario 2009, the annual IT-based tradeshow geared towards the Government of Ontario. The show broke records this year, bringing out participants from all levels of government and some notable keynote speakers.

Hot skills in the GTA include Business Transformation and ERP skills, specifically SAP Functional Consultants. Permanent staffing needs also continue to grow as companies look to fill their lacking skills, such as Project Managers, Infrastructure Managers, and Business Analysts.

While the overall feeling in the GTA is that there are more job opportunities, there are signs indicating that systems integrators are still not yet moving back at full speed.

In Eastern Canada, the economy has undoubtedly turned the corner with both positive job numbers, as well as other economic numbers. The surprising growth in jobs, however, is a tale of two stories - continued job losses in the private sector offset by growth or job gains in the public sector. There are other factors that can tip the direction of the economy either way. The surging Canadian dollar, although making for a cheaper trip to Disneyland for snowbirds, can effectively choke a Canadian economic recovery and translate into continued job losses, certainly in the manufacturing sector of Ontario and Quebec. Although indicators like the stock market and housing market show solid growth, the recovery in jobs still lags somewhat as employers and governments still do not seem to have the requisite confidence to fully commit to IT investment, nor the corresponding hiring effort. The overall good news, though, is something difficult to measure but is more a "feel" out there that, anecdotally, employers are starting to talk about hiring and make hiring plans. At least on the edges, a solid run of good news, barring an election, could be all that is needed to turn momentum in hiring in the East.

Public sector continues to be beset by other micro influences that have served to dampen spirits in the halls of bureaucracy. Looming elections, contracting scandals in Ontario, and an increase in industry challenges to contract awards federally by IT vendors are some of the influences that have all served to put a chill in the technology circles of the Federal Government. At the political level, no elected official wants to be associated with an IT project for fear of perceived failure or project governance issues and cost overruns. These concerns, along with the fact that most, if not a ll, Federal departments are in operational mode, mean there is very likely no big IT projects in the near or mid-term future. With revenue numbers down, the Feds will now focus on operational efficiencies and delivery, better transparency reporting, and doing more with less wherever possible.

In Montreal, we have seen a rise in permanent orders; however, closing cycles are long as employers do not feel the added pressure of a yesterday's market of counter offers and competing offers. Candidates need to be both patient and thorough in their preparation as decisions are made.

While there has been a very significant drop in demand for Project Managers and developers, other hotter skills in Eastern Canada this quarter lean more to the infrastructure side with Network and System Analysts, Help Desk, as well as Business Analysts, SharePoint Developers, and Data Migration resources.