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CANADIAN JOB MARKET -- Mini update Nov/Dec 2010

General Observations:

In November Canada had a net gain of 15,000 jobs and the unemployment rate improved quite significantly to 7.6% from 7.9% in October.  The Canadian staffing index in October was up again at 94, as it continues its long road back from the recession low of 65 in May 2009 (meaning the staffing industry shrank 35%).  

The Canadian dollar continues to be strong, approaching parity at 99.3c US at time of writing. The markets continue to react to the events playing out on the world stage, but despite political situations like WikiLeaks, countries like Ireland accepting bailouts and escalating strife in Korea the markets have fared quite well.  The TSX has managed to show a decent gain with a current reading of 13.172, up about 500 points for last month’s reading of 12,657. 

For Eagle, November was a continuation of the hectic pace we have seen since September.  November marks Eagle’s first quarter and it was a very busy quarter … indicating that the Canadian economy is still doing well in its recovery! 

More Specifically:

The GTA(Greater Toronto Area) continues to be a very hot market for Eagle.  November was no different with the banks, telecommunications companies, retail clients and the system integrators all busy.  There were even signs of life from the Ontario Government, which has demand but struggles with its finances. Having been busy for some time now we are definitely seeing some signs of skills shortages, many instances of candidates getting multiple job offers and as always it is the clients who can “pull the trigger” quickly who are getting the best people.  The demand seems to be strong for both contract and permanent resources, as companies prepare for what should be a continued period of growth (according to an RBC report just today).  

In Western Canada, Calgary is the hottest market once again with increased demand for both contract and permanent employees.  The other Western markets have all seen an increase in demand too, if not at that same torrid pace.  There is more optimism, leading to hiring staff and starting projects.  The biggest challenge from here on will be finding talent and the best people are in big demand.  With Alberta’s GDP up more than 3% in 2010 and expected to do better in 2011 there is an expectation we are in for a busy time! 

Things are picking up a little Eagle’s Eastern Canada region.  Montreal continues to be an active market, particularly in the financial services sector.  The Federal Government in Ottawa has however started to pick up a little.  Investment in infrastructure renewal has become a hot topic as a result of the Auditor General’s report plus a need to compensate for the growing exodus of retiring “boomers”.  The demand is a little mixed across government departments as some struggle with the impending “hard stop” on stimulus spending money, and what that might do to budgets.

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

> The price of oil rose to $88.20 meaning oil companies in the West are investing in projects again.
> The TSX had a good month currently sitting at 13,172, up 500 points from the last month reading of 12,657.
> The Canadian dollar continues to be strong and is currently at 99.3 cents US.
> Prime remains at 3% after three recent increases, and is not expected to rise again soon!
> Canada added 15,000 jobs and the unemployment rate improved a significant .3% to 7.6%. 
> November was another great month for Eagle, ending a bumper quarter.  The drivers of growth were primarily in Toronto and Alberta, however other markets also chipped in.
> The Canadian Federal government market is picking up as they look at renewal of aging systems, and ways to address the “boomer’ brain drain to retirement.


An unemployment number of 7.6% would typically mean that the professions are starting to struggle to find people.  Certainly this appears to be the case across the staffing industry.  In a world where Canada has lost blue collar jobs to lower cost offshore solutions this may be the new unemployment norm as we build our knowledge based economy and rely heavily on the resource based economy of Western Canada.

For some time we have talked about a slow recovery, however this last quarter we have seen an increased pace in that recovery … and Eagle enjoyed a very strong quarter.  The staffing index continues to recover and we expect November to continue that trend, getting closer to that pre-recession benchmark of 100.

It appears that almost all markets are picking up the pace in terms of needing talent.  Toronto led the way and Alberta has been catching up for some time, but now we are seeing demand across the board and in most industries.  Even the Federal Government has been a little busier, but tempered with some uncertainty about budgets once the “stimulus” dollars are cut off.

The global economy is a little scary, but every month Canada seems to fare well and we get a little stronger.  The financial markets are good, the dollar is strong, unemployment is the lowest in almost two years, the oil patch is doing well and there is increased demand for people across the board.

My very strong advice to any companies considering hiring would be (a) start the process now; (b) develop very clean processes to find, screen, choose, hire and onboard these new resources; and (c) know that you will have a lot of competition, so don’t procrastinate!

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