A recent expanded survey of job vacancies was published last week, and revealed that despite the deep resource downturn, Western Canada had substantially higher vacancy rates than the rest of the country in the first quarter of 2015.
The survey also showed that job vacancies were most acute in the food-service and retail sectors, but that skilled positions such as health-care workers, trades people and equipment and transport operators have the longest duration for jobs sitting vacant.
The results come from Statistics Canada’s first Job Vacancy and Wage Survey, which it introduced in response to concerns that data on Canadian labour-market needs and shortages were insufficiently detailed and lacked key information about local markets and specific occupations.
The new JVWS canvasses 100,000 business locations quarterly, and asks a wide range of questions to provide greater detail, including data on specific occupations, cities and sub-provincial economic regions.
The first-quarter survey showed that the national vacancy rate – the number of vacant positions as a percentage of total occupied plus vacant jobs – was highest in the province of Alberta, at 3.5 per cent, despite the impact of the dramatic plunge in oil prices early in the year. Ontario, the country’s most populous province, had the most total vacancies, but its vacancy rate matched the national average.
In 2014, job vacancies and skills shortages became a major topic of political and economic debate when the federal budget contained a 56-page “Jobs Report” that argued that the country was suffering from a “skills misalignment” between unemployed workers and the available job vacancies. Economists expressed serious doubts about the accuracy of the vacancy data, and the government later revised its estimate substantially downward.
Nationally, there were 399,900 vacancies in the quarter. A large share of these vacancies was concentrated in food and retail, which accounted for six of the 10 occupations with the most vacancies.
However, while the total vacancy numbers were dominated by relatively low-skill occupations, the jobs that have sat vacant for the longest were in more highly skilled sectors. This was most acute in health care, where 47 per cent of vacancies remained unfilled after “more than three months of constantly recruiting,” Statscan said. For trades, transport and equipment operators, 39 per cent of vacancies remained unfilled after three months.
The sub-provincial economic regions with the highest vacancy levels were also concentrated in the West. The Swift Current-Moose Jaw region of Saskatchewan led the country with a 5.9-per-cent vacancy rate, followed by the tourism-intensive Banff-Jasper-Rocky Mountain House region of Alberta. All 10 of the highest-vacancy regions were west of the Saskatchewan-Manitoba boundary.
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