The Eagle Blog

CANADIAN JOB MARKET – Mini update Jan Feb 2012

General Observations:

The post-holiday season period typically sees an increase in job activity as people step up their job hunt and companies get back to the job of hiring.  This year was no exception, here at Eagle we saw a marked increase in resumes submitted to us of about 40% over December.  The Canadian unemployment rate also increased slightly in January to 7.6% (7.5% in December).  This increase came about because more people are actually looking for work, despite the fact that the jobs situation was a wash between the two months.

There are of course many factors that impact jobs in Canada, and different sectors are affected in different ways.  The high price per barrel of oil (up slightly from last month to $102) is the primary driver behind the “hot” market in Calgary, yet that is somewhat dampened by the strength of the Canadian dollar(slightly stronger than last month at 99.7cents US).  The Western Canada market would be even “hotter” is the price for Natural gas were not currently near an all-time low.

The financial sector in Canada remains strong and hence is a strong source of employment, with new projects and initiatives creating jobs that impact primarily the GTA and Montreal … and we continue to see demand in those cities.

Across all sectors, job growth requires companies to invest, and they are much more likely to do that in a stable economy.  The stock market continues to fluctuate, creating some uncertainty and in some ways stalling Canada’s potential for growth.  The TSX at time of writing was about 12,400, slightly better than last month’s 12,300.

Eagle’s experiences certainly bear out these economic indicators with January representing a strong month.  In addition to an increase in applicants, we saw orders from our clients up 5% over December.

More Specifically:

For Eagle the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) is still Canada’s hottest job market.  It is Canada’s largest metropolis, home to the greater part of the financial sector in Canada and contains more head offices than any other city.  Toronto is the capital of Ontario, formerly the economic engine for Canada and still a powerhouse province.  This describes why there is so much job activity in Toronto, but like most cities it still faces some challenges.  The Ontario Government released the Drummond Report this week and it calls for sweeping changes to the government which will involve cut backs.  The manufacturing sector in Ontario has been in decline for 10 years and so blue collar jobs are tougher to come by these days … with China and other low cost countries winning out in that work.  For the professional looking for work, Toronto is a good choice with the financial, retail, insurance and telecommunication sectors creating the most demand.

The continued strength of the oil patch keeps 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.  Calgary would be into serious skills shortages if the Natural Gas price was also high and the Canadian dollar was not quite so strong!   As it is, this is the city of opportunity if you are a professional looking for work in Western Canada although the last month was a little slower than we expected..  There are some other, smaller, markets that benefit from the oil boom too, bringing job opportunities to cities like 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.

Not much change in Eagle’s Eastern Canada region with Montreal leading the way in activity.  There has been some low key job activity in Ottawa but the impending Federal Government cutbacks, and the impact of the shared services initiative continue to dampen enthusiasm in Ottawa.  Halifax and the Eastern provinces continue to be smaller markets with smaller numbers of opportunities.


With an unemployment rate of 7.6% Canada might not be in the same league as Germany (5.5%) or Australia (5.1%), but we are ahead of much of the world, some examples being the US (8.3%), UK (8.4%) and Spain (22.9%).  The jobs situation didn’t move much at the macro level between December and January, but here at Eagle we definitely saw an increase in demand from our clients.

Like governments across the globe the Canadian Federal Government is looking at cost cutting initiatives and downsizing that will affect the job market.  In addition, Canada’s largest province has been in decline for some time and now Ontario needs to act on the Drummond report, again meaning cut backs.  A reduction in government spending affects both public sector and private sector jobs.

The cities with the most opportunity remain Toronto and Calgary, with Montreal still showing good signs.  Some of the smaller markets are also doing quite well.  Places like South West Ontario, already badly affected by the reduction in manufacturing jobs are holding their breath as RIM struggles to regain its former prominence … a story that will have a big impact in jobs in that area.

As we progress through the year we will have to see how all of these factors affect Canadian job prospects, but ever the optimist I am hopeful that we will continue the steady improvement we have seen since the recession.  In those HOT markets we will continue to see skills shortages and hiring managers are beginning to recognise the “need for speed” in their hiring decisions.

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!

2 thoughts on “CANADIAN JOB MARKET – Mini update Jan Feb 2012

  1. Despite this rah-rah article about Calgary being a hot IT market, simply not true. The market is now saturated in all areas with most of the new postings have been city jobs or the public sector. Compare with Houston, TX on and you’ll see a market almost 20 times as big, despite a population of only 5x Calgary. The calls I’ve gotten from recruiters during this book period is the lowest I’ve experienced in the past 6 years of being a developer with solid experience.

    Hopefully the economy picks up traction soon. This may be a good time to start looking at other cities if your main reason for staying in Calgary was due to a consistent ‘hot market’.

  2. Steve its always nice to get more input on our observations. The difficulty of course is that our view is at a company level, and there will always be a different view from any single person.
    From our perspective this IS one of the hottest Canadian markets. We are experiencing a lot of demand and are seeing shortages in some skill sets. We are also seeing an increase in candidates getting mutliple offers.

    Some other thoughts …

    The Calgary market is not yet as hot as in pre-recession days.
    IF the natural gas prices were to rise it would go nuts.
    The market has always been known as a boom and bust market … but no REAL busts in probably 5 or 6 years now.
    My comparisons are within Canada … and perhaps Houston is hotter, but generally the US is still a depressed job market.

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