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The job situation in December 2011 and the early part of January is typically affected by the holiday period, which makes it difficult to understand if changes are due to a trend or because of the season. Clearly world economies have continued to struggle, and hence in general terms companies are still being more conservative in their hiring plans. There are however some positive signs, including McKinsey's latest perspective on world economics that suggests improved optimism in many parts of the world.
Canada remains one of the brighter lights amongst world economies and after two months of job losses was able to show growth of 18,000 jobs in December. The unemployment rate however went from 7.4% to 7.5% driven by an increase in people in the labour market. In the last twelve months Canada has added 199,000 jobs.
As different news hits the press the Canadian dollar has fluctuated against the US dollar, whilst remaining quite strong. This month, at time of writing, the Canadian dollar edged back close to par at 98.5 cents US ... which is nice for me as I am spending a few weeks in the US!
Job growth requires companies to invest, and they are much more likely to do that in a buoyant economy, but companies also look for stability. This has not been evident in a long while now, as demonstrated by some other key economic indicators. The TSX at time of writing was about 12,300 ... which is a big boost from last month when it was around 11,600, however the markets continue to fluctuate significantly in very short periods of time. Another key indicator for resource rich Canada is the price of a barrel of oil, which this month is up over $100 a barrel, a gain of better than $6 over last month.
Whilst Eagle's experiences are not economic indicators on a grand scale, I try to tie look at them in light of the above data in order to paint a picture of the job market here in Canada. December was a short work month as many people take a week off for the holiday period, yet Eagle's orders increased by about 7% over November. We also saw a similar increase in actual sold business, which was a very positive indicator when December is usually a much quieter hiring period. January has started robustly and at this point it seems like the demand for professionals will be strong as we start off 2012.
For Eagle the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) remains probably our most active market. Toronto is Canada's largest city, Canada's financial centre and home for many headquarters and as such creates the biggest demand. The verticals that appear to be most busy would include the financial, retail, insurance and telecommunication sectors with some signs of life from the provincial and municipal governments. The demand is fairly wide in the GTA but still it is the highly skilled, experienced resources that are in biggest demand ... and in addition to traditional IT roles, and accounting/finance roles Eagle's new management consulting offering is seeing increasing demand.
It is no surprise to see Calgary as the hottest job market in Western Canada with a continued demand for skilled resources at all levels and across Eagle's lines of business. While the oil sector is generally buoyant, there are a couple of areas of concern; the US Keystone XL decision will affect companies with oil sands investment, and it remains to be seen to what extent; the multi-year low in gas prices has caused companies in that vertical to cut back on investment, including hiring plans. The strong oil price also benefits other Western cities, bringing job opportunities. Most worthy of mention would be Edmonton and Regina, with other smaller Western cities doing well too. All in all, the West continues to be a busy place, and jobs are there to be had.
In Eagle's Eastern Canada region, Montreal continues to be busy, with the financial sector and telecommunications companies generating demand. As Ottawa nears the federal year end there is typically a mini surge in resource demand, but the big news in Ottawa continues to be the upcoming announcement around shared services and what that might mean for jobs both in the Federal Government and amongst suppliers to the Feds. Halifax and the Eastern provinces continue to be smaller markets with smaller numbers of opportunities, although there continues to be optimism that the ship building contracts will generate jobs.
Despite the doom and gloom that assaults us every time we read a newspaper, or look at the news program Canada continues to do relatively well. Looking across the country it seems that demand for professionals in general is picking up. We remain in that strange period where certain skills are in very high demand, creating skills shortages, and yet there are also people with good, but less in-demand skills sitting at home!
December saw an increase in jobs created, and the level of activity we have seen would suggest that demand will continue through January. The EU and the US seem to have averted near term economic disasters, although there remains concern that things could still go wrong, but optimism is improved.
People with good skills and experience, in the professions and in the trades can find good jobs. The concern will be for the lower skilled workers as Canada becomes more and more a knowledge based economy. January is starting relatively strong for us here at Eagle and demand from our clients is increasing. We are seeing skills shortages in both Calgary and Toronto, that result in candidates able to pick and choose between jobs ... resulting in disappointment for those hiring managers unable to move quickly. In those situations too, hiring managers need to understand that when candidates are in such demand their rates are affected and we are seeing an upward trend on rates for the most in demand people.
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.
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada's hot jobs are? Visit the Eagle Job Centre!