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Canadian Job Market Update (January 2022)

Welcome to Eagle’s look at the Canadian job market, 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, we 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. The market rebounded strongly and at the time of writing this report, the TSX sits above 21,000! Clearly the public markets have performed well as they have recovered from that COVID dip!

The unemployment rate is an obvious indicator for the job market, and as I write this the unemployment rate is at 5.9%.The last time I wrote a market update, a little more than 6 months ago, the unemployment rate was 8.2% so we have seen huge gains, and are almost at pre-pandemic rates, which were 5.7% and not that far off the record low of 5.4% set in May 2019.  

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 (5.5%), Quebec (4.6%), Alberta (7.3%) and Ontario (6%) are places to look, and even Alberta has seen big recent gains. As the economy opens up these will be the big employers again.

Another big change since COVID has been the employers' willingness to allow work from home employees. This is being seen in many ways, one of which is the increase in US companies hiring Canadians at Canadian dollar incomes to work for their US companies.

One of the big factors affecting the Alberta market is the price of oil. The price of a barrel in Canada is now above $65. Canadian prices per barrel have always been well below global rates because of our inability to get it to market, other than the US. However, $65 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. In addition to this traditional approach, we have seen an uptick in US companies hiring Canadians to work from home, which is good for job seekers and perhaps not so good for Canadian employers. 

Tech job activity continues to be very strong and there is huge demand for people with the right skills. Digital transformation projects have enabled work from home strategies and websites, cyber-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 5.9% 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 2.5%, 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, Dev Ops 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 are already seeing a return to skills shortages for the most in-demand skill sets.

Now is a great time to refine and speed up that hiring process! Finding, screening, hiring and onboarding can all be done remotely and 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.