The Eagle Blog

CANADIAN JOB MARKET – Second Quarter 2012

General Observations:

From a job market perspective, the second quarter of 2012 here in Canada has been very consistent for some time now.  The unemployment rate in June 2012 is 7.2%, the same as it was at the end of the first quarter which was a little better than the 7.5% at the end of December 2011.  As at the mid-year point we have added 181,000 jobs over the previous 12 months.

Western Canada remains one of the markets with the biggest demand, largely driven by the oil industry.  While the price of a barrel is down from the $110+ highs, it is still a healthy $85+ per barrel.  Other factors that affect the Western Canada job market include an ongoing environmental influence that keeps some check on oil industry growth, a strong Canadian dollar that dampens demand a little, and a low price of natural gas which has restricted investment in that sector.  Should the price of gas ever take off there will be a severe shortage of talent in the resource rich regions of Western Canada!

The financial sector in Canada, headquartered mostly in Toronto with strong presence in Montreal, continues to create demand for talent. Canada’s financial institutions have fared better than most around the world and are a big driver of job growth, most particularly in the GTA.

The instability with the Euro and a dampened US economy do negatively affect Canada’s economy and hence job growth.  The TSX is a good indicator of this impact, with highs of 13,500’s and lows of 10,800s in the last 12 months.  In the second quarter of 2012 the TSX has settled in around the 11,500 mark, whereas it had been above 12,500 in mid Q1.

Federal, Provincial and Municipal government employ a lot of people in Canada and all levels of government continue to find ways to reduce spending.  This has meant fewer projects, less hiring and active layoffs, particularly at the Federal level.  This all means that the public sector has not been a place to find job growth in Canada this year.

The staffing industry is a good indicator of the job market and the second quarter continues to be reasonably positive.   The Canadian Staffing Index (which is an indicator of hours worked by temporary and contract resources) has seen fairly steady growth this year and the May index was up 26% over the same month last year.

More Specifically:

For Eagle, the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) continues to be Canada’s hottest job market, largely because it is home to the largest number of Canadian head offices.  Toronto is also the largest financial centre in Canada, and that sector is currently one of the biggest drivers of demand for talent.   The other industry sectors driving demand here include retail, insurance and the telecommunications sectors.

As previously mentioned, it is the continued strength of the oil patch that keeps Calgary as the hottest job market in Western Canada with strong demand for skilled resources at all levels and across all of Eagle’s lines of business.  Edmonton and Regina are two smaller markets that also show strong demand for talent.  All of that means Western Canada is a good place to look for work.

Eagle’s Eastern Canada region is impacted largely by the Federal Governments cutbacks and reduced demand in Ottawa, however Montreal is enjoying fairly healthy demand, particularly in the financial, insurance and telecommunications industries.  The Maritime provinces are generally tough places to find jobs, however the ship building contracts for Halifax, plus the oil off Newfoundland seem to be creating some buzz.  SW Ontario is currently struggling as RIM comes to terms with its situation through attrition.


The first half of 2012 continues to be a little “ho hum”, with unemployment rates in the low to mid 7% range.  The challenges facing Europe and the US continue to dampen optimism and affect investment in growth.  While those regions are making some progress, it is not enough to remove the concern about slipping back into recession and until those risks are allayed we will continue on this cautious path.

Here at Eagle we are seeing good growth in demand from our client base year over year, but as we head into the Summer months we expect to see some slow down as holidays kick in and decision makers become harder to pin down.

If I were looking for work, the cities that I would be focused on would be Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal and Regina … the city I would be avoiding, if possible, would be Ottawa!  The industries where I would focus would be the financial sector, the oil companies, telecommunications, insurance and retail.  The sector to avoid would be the public sector … although I expect that to change next year.

In the hotter markets there are definite skills shortages and we are seeing “in demand” people receiving multiple job offers and having the ability to “pick and choose”.  So … IF you want to hire the best talent here are some things you should consider:

(a) Start the process early with a strong PLANNING phase;

(b) Develop very clean processes to find, screen, choose, hire and onboard these new resources (if you drag out the hiring process you WILL lose);

(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 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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