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CANADIAN JOB MARKET -- Mini update Sep/Oct 2010

General Observations:

In September Canada gained 37,000 full time jobs, and lost 44,000 part time jobs for a net loss of 7,000 jobs.  The unemployment rate however improved slightly, dropping by 0.1% to 8.0%.  Since September last year Canada has added approximately 350,000 jobs in its slow but steady recovery from the recession, which cost the country more than 400,000 jobs.

The Canadian dollar achieved parity with the US dollar at the time of writing this report, which is probably as much a story about the weakness in the US economy as it is about the strength of the Canadian economy.  The markets continue to show volatility and many experts are still wary about the long term sustainability of this recovery.  Having said that, the general trend is positive and the TSX was up again at better than 12,600 which is close to 500 points better than last month.

In the trenches as a staffing company we are currently experiencing a big increase in demand for skilled labor.  The GTA (Greater Toronto Area) has led the way for the past many months and now Calgary is starting to get very hot too; Edmonton, Montreal and Vancouver are also showing signs of life which is nice to see!  The obvious disappointment is the National Capital region which continues to languish a little.

More Specifically:

The GTA(Greater Toronto Area) continues to be a market with a big appetite for skilled people.  Demand is increasing across all sectors with even the Provincial Government starting to drive some demand.  Still the hottest sectors are the financial institutions and the telecom sector, both of which need to invest heavily in technology for competitive reasons.  We are seeing all of the traditional issues of a hot market, with contractors receiving multiple offers and clients needing to make fast decisions in order to get the best talent.

In Western Canada, Calgary is enjoying a little boom in demand, although partly that is fueled by some impending outsourcing contracts that will have offshore component.  This creates some uncertainty in the market with people looking to move to “more secure” contracts.  Vancouver which has been quiet following the Olympics, an election and the Summer holidays is starting to heat up at last . never a “booming” market we are seeing some increase in demand here. Edmonton too, is starting to warm up again with a steady increase in demand for people.

Not much has changed in Eagle’s Eastern Canada region where Montreal continues to be quite busy, most particularly in the permanent rather than temp/contract world, and like the GTA it is the financial sector, telcos and system integrators that have the biggest demand.   The national Capital Region continues to disappoint and under perform with Ottawa unemployment hitting a 7 year high at 7.2%.  None of that is helped by the CRA’s focus on the “independence” of incorporated contractors, a change in heart . not a change in rules!  That is also exacerbated by a continuing attack on the staffing industry for its success in supplying a temporary workforce to meet the needs of the Federal Government.  I have to say it again . if the politicians would get out of the way then business could focus on recovering from the recession!

The following are some facts/indicators we are watching as of time of writing:

> The price of oil is up more than $7 from last month to $82.78, perhaps one of the reasons for increased optimism in the Calgary market.
> Natural Gas prices are pretty steady, or slightly down.
> The markets continue to be volatile, however the TSX was up almost 500 points to 12,621 from 12,144 last month.
> The Canadian dollar hit par with the US dollar at time of writing!
> Prime remains at 3% after three recent increases, and is not expected to rise again soon!
> Canada added 37,000 full time jobs, lost 44,000 part time jobs resulting in a loss of 7,000 jobs, however there was a slight gain in the unemployment rate to 8.0% from 8.1%.  Canada has added 350,000 jobs in the last 12 months, against losses of about 400,000 during the recession.
> Eagle continues to see a pickup in activity in most sectors, banks, energy companies, and telcos in particular.  Clients are recognizing the need to develop recruitment and retention strategies, in addition to having smooth efficient hiring practices.
> The Canadian Federal government seems to have slowed spending and reduced its employment ranks.  Suppliers in this market are all hurting a little.  The focus on independent contractors and the staffing industry is particularly painful.


Last month I anticipated telling you how busy all of the markets have been from a labor demand perspective.  I am happy to report that most markets are busier and both the GTA and Calgary are achieving that state of “almost too busy” …  if that were possible.  Most other markets, besides the National Capital Region, are seeing an increase in demand which is nice to see.  Maybe Ottawa will catch up soon?

The staffing industry is often the first to see changes in a market because companies will use their flexible workforce as a buffer when demand fluctuates.  The general increase in staffing demand is likely to be a precursor to an increase in hiring across the board, so it would not be unexpected to be seeing a return to skills and labour shortages early in 2011.

Companies can prepare themselves for this in a number of ways.  They should develop excellent retention strategies, assign contracts for longer periods (eliminating risk of losing key personnel) and move quickly when in the hiring cycle.  These best practices will ensure that they don’t lose out on the best candidates because someone else was that bit quicker, or had slightly better “selling messages”.

That is my monthly look at the job market across Canada and some of its influences.