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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.

Overall employment across Canada remained fairly consistent this past quarter, with Statistics Canada reporting the Canadian unemployment rate at 8.5% in both November and December. Employment in the public sector actually decreased in December which was offset by a notable increase in self-employment. Across Canada, Alberta had the largest rise in employment while Manitoba seems to have taken the biggest hit, with employment declining by 4,600 last month.

In Western Canada, some regions are still experiencing hard times due to the recession; however, many cities are seeing more job opportunities as markets start to pick-up. Calgary, in particular, seems to be ahead. Oil prices are reasonable and both oil and gas prices have stabilized, allowing companies in the industry to return to some previously shelved projects. Suncor's acquisition of Petro-Canada had spurred a lot of activity and turmoil in the resource market, while Encana and Cenovus' split was completed and saw a lot of hiring. There are reports that top candidates seeking jobs are beginning to receive multiple offers again, suggesting that the market is well on its way to reabsorbing the jobless shed in the downsizing of the past year. Hot jobs in Calgary include: Project Managers and Business Analysts, as well as Content Management and SAP resources.

British Columbia is also starting to recover, although in slower fashion than Calgary. Most of the recovery has been felt in Vancouver, where companies are beginning to shake off the effects of the recession and the Olympics are fuelling the need for ramped up help desk resources. Victoria, however, is still pretty quiet due to a dearth of government spending.

Edmonton and Winnipeg are two regions in Western Canada still struggling. Both cities' IT industries rely heavily on either government or service companies, whose main client is the government. The municipal and provincial governments, though, are not spending due to deficits caused by the recession. The Alberta Government's hiring freeze has caused all levels to cancel projects or not extend existing contractors' contracts. Skills that are in demand include Project Managers, Business Analysts, and Security resources. In Manitoba, the NDP leadership transitioned smoothly and appear to be waiting out their fiscal year before considering new spending. Winnipeg's financial industry also appears to be very quiet as they rework/re-commit to their strategies given the new economy. Network Administrators and Business Analysts seem to be the hot jobs in Winnipeg.

Rates are holding firm in Calgary and BC, but are still depressed and, in some cases, still declining in Edmonton and Winnipeg as many IT professionals have been without work or contracts for some time. There is also still news of pending layoffs in Edmonton and Winnipeg which is impacting both supply of available resources and rates. As supply of available resources is still quite strong across the West and companies are still intently focused on cost control, rate increases for contract extensions are few and typically come with a corresponding change in scope. Additionally, the percentage of contractors accepting extensions to their current contract has been very high as suitable alternatives have been much more difficult to find. Last quarter many companies across the West took advantage of the market conditions to tender for new resource supply agreements as a way to cut costs and lock in the lower rates.

With the exception of Vancouver, full-time hiring is still down. Many companies often require several levels of management approval before a requisition can be created and they are very cautious with the newly stabilizing economy. In Vancouver, permanent hiring has increased modestly, especially towards the end of November and into December.

The overall job market in the GTA is still feeling fallout from the recession as the December unemployment rate remained at 9.5% as it did in November (the rate is 0.2% higher than the province of Ontario's unemployment rate and an entire 1.0% above the entire country). The IT job market in the region is growing, with both government and financial institutions undertaking more projects and raising demand for more resources in both contract and permanent positions. Permanent placements, in particular, are growing within the Retail and Financial industries as they seek fulltime resources, mainly Project Managers, Infrastructure Managers, Business Analyst and Enterprise Architects.

Other skills in the Toronto area that continue to be hot include Business Transformation and ERP specialists, including SAP Functional Analysts, as well as Oracle Financials and PeopleSoft Resources.

A notable trend in the region is the significant increase in Systems Integrator activity. These companies, over the last quarter, have picked up a good amount of projects from the local market and are starting to demand more resources. The attitude of IT professionals has not changed much in the past quarter. They continue to be cautious in their job hunts and are searching for those long-term, more stable contracts, or even permanent positions.

In Eastern Canada, clients and candidates alike are nervously wondering what 2010 will hold for them. With what can easily be described as the toughest year in recent memory, for companies and individuals, there are signs of better days ahead, but also signs of more of the tough stuff.

In Ottawa, often viewed as an insulated economy, the two biggest drivers, the Federal Government and a very distant second the Technology marketplace, continue to struggle with different challenges. As the year wound down, many government clients had immediate, if not pipeline, demands for resources but were simply unable to navigate procurement and/or funding challenges. With the government's stimulus efforts putting government in a deep deficit position, many projects are under greater scrutiny than ever and some departments have already felt a significant pinch, if not deep bite, in available dollars to fund new hiring or even continued projects. Clients also add that the grind through procurement or contracting approval is as difficult and slow as ever. What is not in doubt, though, is there is absolute and clear demand for these resources as many projects that have been in the hands of large vendors, some quite significant, will soon be at the stage that they be turned back to the Feds to run and there will be significant skill shortages to do that in the months and years ahead. Many Federal Government PMO's will be in this very situation as we look ahead and government will no doubt turn to industry to augment those with the skills and resources needed to operate effectively.

The "high technology" market in Ottawa has all but disappeared from the heydays of yore with the exception of a couple bright lights. It's hoped that as one or two of those aforementioned bright lights blossom, there will be a renewed spark in the market and employment opportunities will follow. In the interim, though, the two drivers of the Ottawa market - technology and the Federal Government - were seen as the two poor performers that caused an unexpected jump in the Ottawa unemployment rate in Ottawa in December.

In Montreal, the market is definitely seeing a palpable up tick in dem and as requirements have grown steadily through the fall and through the New Year. The Montreal market seems at though it will continue be an active one through the spring and beyond.

Hot skills in Ottawa include: Oracle, Siebel, as well as IVR skills. In Montreal they include Security Consultants, .NET and Java Developers, as well as PMs and BAs.