The new year started with some optimism and we have seen some good signs related to Canada’s job market. Over the course of the first quarter the unemployment rate improved for a starting point around 7.2%, ending the quarter at a 6.9% unemployment rate. Over the course of the 12 months ending March 2014 Canada added 190,000 jobs, adding 43,000 jobs in March alone.
In creating this summary I look at a number of “big picture” factors in addition to Eagle’s own experiences on the “front end” of providing talent to our clients across the country. From these indicators we can see trends and understand where the opportunities are for jobs in Canada.
Positive movement in the stock market will result in investment by public companies, in projects, in infrastructure and other growth initiatives which at the end of the day means jobs. I use the TSX as my guide and it continued its upward trend in Q1 ending the quarter with a reading of close to 14,200 which is almost 100 points higher than the start of the quarter. This would suggest that we can expect these public companies to start to invest and hopefully that results in more Canadian jobs.
Canada’s oil sector continues with its challenges of gaining approval for much needed pipelines, which is somewhat restricting growth in that sector, however by most market standards the oil patch is strong. The price of a barrel of oil at quarter end was around $108 as opposed to $100 at the start of the quarter, with a strong oil price being one indicator of an appetite for investment and growth in jobs. It continues to be Alberta leading the charge, but Saskatchewan and British Columbia also benefit from jobs in the oil patch. This sector employs huge numbers of people across all professions and trades and continues to be a big area of opportunity to job seekers.
The financial sector is centered primarily in Toronto, but also has a strong presence in Montreal and is a huge employer here in Canada. This sector continues to create a huge demand for talent and is one that job seekers would be wise to target. The big driver of demand for talent in this sector will be regulatory change, competitive pressures, technological change, innovation and the impact of retiring baby boomers over the coming years.
Another big employer in Canada is the telecommunications sector. Driven by technological change, competitive pressures, infrastructure growth, expansion into new markets and again, the impact of retiring boomers this is a sector that is always looking for talent.
As anyone who has done some renovation work, or bought a new home will know the trades are in big demand. This is an area of opportunity with good mobility in the industry, competitive incomes and big demand. In addition to the traditional housing type work and large building construction there are continuing major projects within various sectors such as the oil patch.
Governments across Canada are huge employers but in recent years have been under pressure to reduce spending and cut back on headcount. That does not mean however, that there is no opportunity. Government continue to invest in projects that will result in more efficient delivery of services, in client focused initiatives and will always provide support to certain regions and special interest groups. While the opportunity may not be as clear cut as in the past, there is still a very large impending impact from retiring boomers, who because of their pension structure are very likely to take their retirement!
The staffing industry is the largest provider of talent in any economy and an excellent barometer of the health of our economy. The Canadian Staffing Index would suggest that demand has fluctuated through 2013 and into the first quarter of 2014, but is generally headed upwards, albeit gently. Here at Eagle, we saw an increase of 7% in people applying to us for jobs, however we saw a much bigger increase in demand (18%) for talent from our clients. Put together with earlier data this would suggest that in the professional space we are seeing a consistent greater demand for talent, and at the same time a decrease in available talent.
It is no surprise that with the largest metropolitan population, and the largest number of head offices, the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) creates the biggest demand for talent. Here at Eagle our GTA region typically represents 60% of our client demand. In addition to the obvious demand from the financial sector, the telcos, the insurance industry, the construction industry and service industries are all big employers in the GTA.
Out in Western Canada it is Calgary, with the second most head offices in Canada and the economic centre for the oil patch which is the economic hub. The first quarter has seen an uptick in demand for talent and increasing shortages of key skills. Clients are seeing this trend and realising that they need to move quickly in order to get the people they want. The West continues to be a good place to find work particularly for engineers and people in the industries that service the oil sector.
Eagle’s Eastern Canada region covers Ottawa, Montreal and “the Maritimes”. Montreal continues to be fairly busy, particularly 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. The Federal Government in Ottawa is moving ahead on some large initiatives which is creating some demand and this market is looking healthier for professionals than in some time, however the National Capital Region has seem an increased unemployment rate over the last while.
The types of people that seem to be in constant demand from our clients has been fairly consistent. We see a consistent demand for Program Managers and Project Managers while Business Analysts are also always in demand. It might just be our focus but Change Management and Organizational Excellence resources are in relatively high demand too. Big data and mobile expertise are specialisations that are in demand. On the Finance and Accounting side we see a consistent need for financial analysts, accountants with designations and public accounting experience plus controllers as a fairly consistent talent request. Technology experts with functional expertise in Health Care is another skill set that sees plenty of demand.
2014 has started out positively, and I expect it to continue to improve. We will see more skills shortages as we move through the year driven partly by an increased number of boomers retiring because their retirement portfolios have recovered sufficiently from the recession. The US recovery seems to be progressing well which will cause a drag along effect here in Canada too. Over all I am feeling optimistic for our economy. With an unemployment rate under 7% we can extrapolate that the unemployment rate for professionals as being far lower, perhaps in the 4% or less range. This bodes well for professionals of all types, in addition there is strong demand for skilled trades people. The real impact of the unemployment rate is on the unskilled workers and those in the declining manufacturing industries.
For those people willing to go where the work is we see continued opportunity in the oil patch, with obvious demand in Fort McMurray and all areas related to the oil sands. The cities with higher talent demand include the GTA, Calgary, Regina, Montreal, Edmonton and to a lesser degree Winnipeg, Vancouver and Saskatoon. 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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