The Eagle Blog

Canadian Job Market – Third Quarter 2012

General Observations:

From a job market perspective, the third quarter of 2012 here in Canada has been very consistent for some time now.  The unemployment rate in September 2012 is 7.4%, and has basically fluctuated between 7.2% and 7.5% throughout the year. Canada has added 175,000 more jobs in the last 12 months, and basically the story across the country about which areas are hot and which are not has not changed since my last report 3 months ago.

Western Canada is a strong job market largely driven by the oil industry, but with healthy activity in the telco sector too.  Currently the price of a barrel of oil is above $90.  At these prices the industry can invest in projects, grow and create jobs.  People often talk about Oil & Gas, however the gas industry has been somewhat depressed this year, which means they are not in job creation mode.  Coupled with a strong Canadian dollar these factors dampen demand for people slightly.  Should all of those factors align in the future we would see the current “skills gap” become a full on labour shortage in Western Canada specifically.  Latest Statistics Canada figures suggest a slight slowing in growth for Alberta, but its slower growth is still better than most markets!

Next to the oil sector Canada’s financial services industry has enjoyed a strong 2012.  With most of the demand for people comes in the headquarters of these organisations, primarily in Toronto but also with a strong Montreal presence.  The performance of Canada’s banks through the recession and their distance from the scandals that have plagued banks around the world means that this is a strong sector.  The banks operate in a very competitive environment and are investing heavily to take market share, which means a high demand for skilled resources.

One other sector that has been particularly strong for jobs this year is the telecommunication sector.  Strong competition amongst the carriers means that they invest in new services and products that creates jobs across the country.  Most of Canada’s major cities benefit from this investment with Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal the major beneficiaries.

The final sector I will talk about is the construction industry which, despite doom and gloom predictions continues to boom and create job opportunities across the country.  You only need to look around in any city to see the cranes and activity, and if you have a job requiring the trades you can expect to pay top dollar and endure delays in finding available resource.

The multiple levels of government have always been large employers.  Currently the Federal and Provincial levels of government particularly are in cost cutting mode.  Having spent to stimulate during the recession governments around the world are trying t get their houses back in order … and it is no different here.  Depending upon where you live, many Municipal governments continue through the normal course of business to employ a lot of people, and can be a good place to look for work.

Canada, like the rest of the world, was expecting to be dealing with the affects of a retiring “boomer” population by now.  The recession and the weakness in the stock markets put retirement plans on hold for many, so we have not yet seen a mass exodus from the workforce.  This phenomena will happen and will be a factor in the job market in the coming months and years.  In addition, Canada’s job market is affected by macro-economic factors such as economic woes in Europe and the US, as well as a softening in the emerging markets of Asia.   The TSX is one good indicator of how the markets are reacting.  At time of writing the TSX was at 12,250 which brings it back near to the highs of Q1, nowhere near the 13,500s it had reached last year but much higher than the lows we have reached in the 10,800 range earlier this year. 

Canada’s staffing industry is an excellent barometer of the health of our economy and the Canadian Staffing Index reflects the strength of our job sector.  This index has been trending up through this last quarter and at a reading of 113 is currently close to the post-recession high reached last year of 116. 

More Specifically:

As mentioned earlier there really has been only incremental change in the job market this last quarter.  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, and multiple industries that are considered “hot”.  As the largest financial centre in Canada, home to major telecommunication carriers, a hub for insurance companies, the retail sector and a very busy construction industry this is the place to be looking for work! 

The oil patch ensures that, in particular Calgary, but also many other cities in Western Canada continue to prosper.  Other cities enjoying prosperity include Edmonton and Regina, although I would hesitate to suggest any of the Western cities are “suffering”.  The big cities all have strong construction industries and the telcos have strong presence too.  So the west is also a good place to be if you are looking for a job and have skills.

Eagle’s Eastern Canada region is impacted largely by the Federal Governments cutbacks and reduced demand in Ottawa, however Montreal continues to enjoy healthy demand, particularly in the financial, insurance and telecommunications industries.  The concern in Montreal will be the effect of a change to a government with a stated anti-business stance.  The Maritime provinces have always been cyclical markets, and a tough place to find jobs.  The ship building contracts for Halifax, plus the oil off Newfoundland seem to be creating some buzz.  SW Ontario while struggling with attrition from RIM, does have a fairly healthy tech sector that continues to thrive and create job opportunities.


2012 has not been a boom year for Canada but in comparison to countries around the world we remain a leader.  Unemployment rates have not changed appreciably but we have created 175,000 jobs in the last year.

Here at Eagle we continue to see growth in demand from our clients, and in the numbers of people applying to our jobs.  We received 30% more resumes in the last 12 months, in comparison to the previous 12 months and our client orders were up 10% in the same period.

Clearly the hot cities in Canada remain Toronto and Calgary, with Edmonton, Regina and Montreal good places to be looking for work too … and one of the toughest cities to be looking for work would be Ottawa.  The hot industries are banking, insurance, construction, telecommunications and the sectors that serve those industries.  The sector that is not hiring at its normal pace would be government, although that is expected to change particularly as the retirements happen … and they will.

In the hotter markets we are seeing clear skills shortages and the “in demand” people are receiving multiple job offers, giving them the ability to “pick and choose”.  So … IF you are looking people, and 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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