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CANADIAN JOB MARKET - Mini update Nov Dec 2011

General Observations:

The job situation in November 2011 was not much changed from October, which is a product of the ongoing uncertainty facing world markets.  This is typically one of the busiest hiring periods of the year and certainly some sectors are hiring, but hiring managers also have one eye on an underperforming world economy.  This puts a damper on hiring and most particularly on full-time hiring.

Statistics Canada reported that Canada lost 19,000 jobs in November, following a big loss of 54,000 jobs in October.  This resulted in another increase in the unemployment rate from 7.3% to 7.4%.

The dire state of the EU has caused a strengthening of the US dollar, and so at time of writing the Canadian dollar has dropped below par to around 96 cents US.  This will be good for exporters but reduces Canadian global buying capacity.  The fluctuating dollar is unlikely to have much impact on employment in the short term, but in order for companies to plan effective growth strategies they need some stability in the economy.  So longer term it might have a dampening affect on full time hiring.

All of this turmoil is reflected in the stock markets.  This time last month the TSX had gained about 300 points from the previous month, however this month it is back down again … a whopping 750 points then!  Oil prices have also been dropping, about $8 a barrel since last month, to approximately $94 a barrel.  The oil patch in Western Canada remains a fairly active job market, although the fallout from the US Keystone XL “non-decision” is still expected to result in cutbacks on projects and some layoffs (as opposed to the thousands of new jobs that had been anticipated if the project had been approved).

Here at Eagle we supply our clients with technology professionals, executive & management consultants in addition to finance professionals across a broad spectrum of industries.  We continue to see steady demand for these resources and have experienced growth each month.  In November the number of requests for resources increased about 20%.  There was however an offsetting slowdown in decision making, resulting in less growth for Eagle than in previous months.

More Specifically:

Not much change in the GTA(Greater Toronto Area) where generally the market is active, and it is still the financial, insurance and telecommunication sectors that are driving that demand.  The demand for full time resources cooled off a little in the last couple of months.  We attribute that to the uncertainty in all markets.  The South West Ontario area is experiencing some angst as large employer RIM continues to struggle and how that might affect the Waterloo job scene.

Calgary remains the hottest job market in Western Canada however there does remain some concern about the potential for cancelled projects and associated downsizing related to the US decision not to proceed with the Keystone XL pipeline.  There was good news for Victoria, BC which has attracted attention from Microsoft and a gaming centre that will generate about 60 jobs on the island.

In Eagle’s Eastern Canada region, Montreal seems to be the market with most demand.  There has been some pick up in government work as “year-end” budgets need to be met, but generally things are slower than the norm and it is likely to be May before we see new budgets approved and demand increase again.  Shared Service management has indicated that it will need to spend $375 million to achieve future efficiencies … so that might translate into some work soon.  The East coast tends to be quiet on the jobs front, and we have seen no big increase in demand.


As we head into the holiday period the demand for resources declines somewhat, and decisions are postponed until the new year.  The Fall in Canada has seen decent, but not exciting, demand for contract resources with a slowing in demand for full time resources.  The unemployment rate is higher than we would want, and until stability returns to the world markets we are unlikely to see much improvement.

The Toronto market is busy primarily because of the banking, insurance and telecommunications industry.  We expect the Ontario government to start to get busy again in the new year, although that might be accompanied by some downsizing.  The Western markets rely heavily on the price of a barrel of oil, and that looks like it will remain fairly high, so we anticipate the Western demand for resources to remain high for a while.  Ottawa remain very dependent upon the Federal Government and cut backs, strategic reviews and the shared services initiative will determine the pace of demand there for some time … which is not promising.  Montreal however seems to enjoying a resurgence, again because of the financial services and telecommunications sectors.

I am an optimist, and expect 2012 to be a continuation of the long slow improvement in our economy.  The realist in me however says that in order for that to happen the EU needs to fix its own house (by printing money and devaluing the Euro) and the US needs to find a way for the two polarized parties to make some decisions.  I prefer to remain optimistic that sanity will prevail because those situations will have a profound effect on Canada’s economy and the demand for people.

I expect to see a continued increase in demand for skilled labour over the coming months … most particularly at the very senior level, and specialists that can help companies prepare for growth.  The hottest markets will continue to experience some skills shortages, therefore hiring managers need to keep this in mind, despite the doom and gloom around the world!  As has become my recent practice, I will end this write-up with my “standing advice” to ANY company needing people:

(a) Start the process now with a strong PLANNING phase;

(b) Develop very clean processes to find, screen, choose, hire and onboard these new resources;

(c) Know that you will have a lot of competition and therefore speed in decision making will be critical;

(d) The job doesn’t stop there … retention becomes the next challenge!

That was my monthly look at the Canadian job market and some of its influences.