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The first two months of the year saw modest job gains but March job figures showed a decline of 55,000 jobs across Canada and the unemployment rate increased to 7.2%. Having said that, Canada does have 200,000 more jobs than at the same time last year, which is a definite positive. While Canada fares better than many other countries there has been no boom, even in the hottest sectors which would be financial services, telco and the oil patch.
One of the other indicators for the economy is the stock market and the TSX continues to do "OK", but with that typical two steps forward, one step back type of performance. In the first three months of 2013 the index has been marginally higher than the last quarter of 2012, ranging between 12,400 and 12,800. Last quarter was more volatile, but highs were in the 12,700 range. As we head into April the index has dropped somewhat with a reading of 12,474 at time of writing this.
The "oil patch" is one of Canada's hottest economies however even it has been showing signs of slowing down. While the price of a barrel of oil remains north of $94, which should suggest a period of investment we have seen a number of oil companies downsizing in the Calgary market. The influx of skilled resources onto the job market means that skills shortages are reduced for a little while.
While the banking sector continues to be a source of demand for skilled resources it too has its challenges. The recent RBC/iGate outsourcing snafu has put focus on Canada's temporary foreign worker program and the offshoring phenomena. While I don't expect this to change things much there may be an effect on the program which would not be good for Canada's longer term need for skilled labour.
The telecommunications sector remains very competitive and creates a big demand for resources across the country. There is an ebb and a flow to this demand as the telephone companies ramp up their projects but generally speaking this is a sector that is always in need of skilled people.
It seems that every major city has a significant number of construction projects on the go, with new towers announced monthly. This creates almost constant demand for the trades, who continue to enjoy full employment.
Governments across Canada continue to implement austerity measures, downsize and cut back on programs. The Federal government has reduced its workforce by about 14,400 employees over the last year with another 5,000 jobs expected to go. Ontario continues to wrestle with its budget woes and may face an election, Alberta has a budget deficit to handle and BC will have an election in May. All that said, the government vertical remains a tough one to find jobs.
Canada, like the rest of the world, was expecting to be dealing with the effects of a retiring "boomer" population by now. The recession and the weakness in the stock markets put retirement plans on hold for many, so we have not yet seen a mass exodus from the workforce. These phenomena will happen and will be a factor in the job market in the coming months and years.
Canada's staffing industry is an excellent barometer of the health of our economy and the Canadian Staffing Index reflects the strength of our job sector. This index was trending up throughout 2012 and in the first couple of months in 2013 is trending about the same as the first quarter of 2012. Here at Eagle however we have seen a 9% decrease in client demand in the first quarter when measured against the first quarter of 2012. At the same time we have experienced a 50% increase in job applicants. This would suggest that the job market in the professional space has slowed down.
The GTA (Greater Toronto Area) is the hottest job market in Canada, here at Eagle client demand is generally 70% higher than our other regions. It is home to the highest number of head offices, it is Canada's major financial center and with a population of around 6 million it has the largest available workforce. The sectors that continue to have demand are the Financial, telecommunications, construction and service industries.
Despite the fact that Calgary's population is little more than 1 million, it is the second busiest market for jobs and the engine of Western Canada. The oil revenues spill into other cities, notably Regina but also Edmonton where provincial government benefits from the associated taxes. The West generically is a good place to be looking for work, particularly if you are willing to endure a little hardship in places like Fort McMurray. In recent months demand has tapered a little, there have been some downsizing exercises and the extreme skill shortages of the boom times are a thing of the past. This will change in the boom and bust world of Western Canada particularly if the gas sector picks up.
Eagle's Eastern Canada region covers Ottawa, Montreal and "the Maritimes". Montreal continues to be busy in the financial sector, the telcos and the construction industry. There is also some demand in St John's, NFLD (population about 200,000), and in Halifax (approx. 400,000) but everything is relative and they are not big markets. Ottawa's dependence on the Federal Government means it remains a tough place to find work.
Some trends we are seeing across the country include demand for change management resources, lean experts, health informatics professionals and increased demand around big data. Business analysts, financial analysts, controllers, project managers and web developers all seem to have decent demand too.
The year has started a little slowly, there are some dampening factors on the job market notably the world economic situation and our various levels of government struggling with their deficits.
Demand in the GTA is still healthy and while most markets are luke warm the other cities to find work are Calgary, Montreal, Regina, Vancouver and Edmonton. The industry sectors that have the most demand have not changed and include banking, insurance, construction, telecommunications and the sectors that serve those industries.
That was my quarterly look at the Canadian job market and some of its influences.
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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