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Canadian Job Market Update (June 2021)

Welcome to Eagle's look at the Canadian job market. Our focus tends to be the professional space, with a focus on tech jobs.  

 In recent months we have produced specific market updates which you can find through these links:  

Over the years I have used a fairly consistent set of indicators to give insight into the economy and thus the job market. One such indicator is the markets, and for this purpose I have focused on the TSX. When the pandemic hit back in March 2020, the TSX dropped to 11,350. In my report last November, it was sitting at a near 5-year record high of 16,800. At the time of writing this report, the TSX sits above 20,000 which really is an all-time high. Clearly the public markets have performed well through this time!

The unemployment rate is an obvious indicator for the job market, and as I write this the unemployment rate is at 8.2%. Employment rates were improving quite steadily this year; however, since last November, the needle has only moved from 8.5%, so we still have a problem. During this time, we have seen a high of 9.4% unemployment in January and a low of 7.5% in March so clearly there is still a lot of flux as we recover. A big driver has been the various shutdowns imposed when COVID infection rates have been high. Hopefully as vaccines roll out, we will see a steady decline in infection rates, closings and unemployment.

Here at Eagle we are seeing a big uptick in demand for technology professionals with all our internal indictors suggesting that we are shifting into a skills shortage scenario. This is not unexpected when you see that technology has been a huge enabler through the pandemic, with digital transformation supporting work from home environments and the huge increase in online shopping -- just two huge drivers of this demand.

Whenever I give advice to job seekers there are always two things that I stress (a) no matter how few jobs there are, you only need one; and, (b) sometimes the jobs are elsewhere, and if you are willing to relocate then your chances improve significantly. In Canada, the four largest provinces represent close to 90% of the jobs, with Ontario the largest (close to 40%); Quebec (approx. 23%); BC (13.5%) and Alberta (12.5%). So, when considering where to look for jobs, a province that employs a lot of people and has a relatively low unemployment rate is a good place to look. Traditionally BC, Quebec, Alberta and Ontario all fit that bill. As the economy opens up, these will be the big employers again. Another big change though will be that a willingness to allow work from home employees will see more opportunities than ever for people, wherever they live. 

One of the big factors affecting the Alberta market is the price of oil.  The price of a barrel in Canada is now above $55, and while still significantly less than other markets, this is a good price for Canada's oil patch and we have seen a significant uptick in demand for people. 

Large global companies continue to invest in Canada, to tap into a well-educated and capable workforce that just happens to be significantly cheaper than talent in the US. When coupled with Canada's progressive immigration laws, this has resulted in good, well-paying jobs for Canadians 

Tech job activity was very strong pre-COVID and while we have not recovered to the same levels yet, there is still good opportunity for in demand skills across Canada, and that demand is increasing. As already mentioned, digital transformation projects have enabled work from home strategies and websites, security and payments systems have played a significant role in the proliferation of online buying. Our research suggests that the tech unemployment rate as being about half of the general unemployment rate, but in COVID times I would suggest an even wider gap. The general unemployment rate of 8.2% includes the huge impact on the hospitality, travel and retail world while many tech professionals have been able to continue to work from home. It would surprise me if the tech unemployment rate is more than 3.5%, which is pretty much full employment.

Eagle's focus is technology professionals and the most in demand areas/skills recently have included: Cloud, Government, Telecom, Security, Payments, CRM, Digital, Big Data, BI and AI; Agile BAs, Change Management, Quality Assurance, Architects, Solution Architects, Front & Back-End developers, Full Stack developers, DevOps engineers; and even mainframe is making a comeback! 

In summary, people with those in-demand tech skills and experience should have little difficulty in finding employment, either contract or perm if not immediately, then very soon! A willingness to relocate to the bigger centers will only increase marketability. 

It remains to be seen when things will return to something "more normal", but life needs to go on and people in tech are in demand. Many can work from home and that demand is only going to increase. 

For employers our advice is this: If you see great talent that will be a fit in your organization then act now, because their availability will not last long. We will return to skills shortages sooner rather than later.  Now is a great time to refine and speed up that hiring process! Finding, screening, hiring and onboarding can all be done remotely and efficiently, and will become an absolute necessity very soon. We are seeing a big increase in situations where our candidates receive multiple job offers. This results in clients losing talent because they are too slow to make a decision, which highlights the importance of that hiring process.