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Help Wanted: Private sector job vacancies, Q4 2016

March 2017
Ted Mallett, VP & Chief Economist

Canada’s private sector job vacancy rate was once again unchanged at 2.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016. This is the fourth consecutive reading at that level, mirroring similar stability in the unemployment rate. Although representing just over 300,000 unfilled jobs it shows continuing slack in Canada’s labour market overall.

The stability, however, masks considerable differences in conditions across regions and industries. Vacancy rates are highest in British Columbia (3.1 per cent), Ontario (2.8 per cent), Quebec and New Brunswick (both 2.5 per cent). In Ontario's case, it is the highest recorded reading since we started measuring this indicator in 2004. Considerably weaker labour market conditions, which tend to show up as low vacancy rates, however, were again noted in Alberta (1.5 per cent) and Saskatchewan (1.9 per cent). In both cases, though, downward trends through most of 2015 and 2016 appear to have been arrested.

Among industry groupings, rising vacancy rates in Q4 were seen in oil and gas, construction, manufacturing, wholesale, hospitality and healthcare. In contrast, declining rates showed up in agriculture, retail, professional services and personal services. Sector conditions, however, only form part of the picture with respect to job vacancies because they don't necessarily represent the more precise occupational or skills-set needs of businesses. In addition, small businesses are structurally more prone to higher vacancy rates compared to larger enterprises, who have greater flexibility to move people within their organizations.

The survey also shows a continuing clear relationship between job vacancies and wages. Businesses with at least one vacancy reported planned average organization-wide wage increases of 1.7 per cent in Q4 2016, while those fully staffed reported planned increases of only 1.2 per cent. 

+Figure 1: Vacancy rates

+Figure 2: Vacancy rates by size of business

+Table 1: Private sector job vacancies by province, Q4 2016

+Figure 3: Average planned wage increases, Q4 2016

+Figure 4: Vacancy rates by province

+Figure 5: Vacancy rates by industry


Notes: methodology and data quality

The current results are based on 1,802 responses from the latest quarter. The series comes from CFIB's Your Business Outlook Survey, which is conducted monthly with a stratified random sampling of ID-validated business owner-operator members.

On the survey, respondents provide the total number of full-time and part-time people currently employed at their business. They are also asked “How many jobs in your firm currently have been vacant for at least 4 months because you have been unable to find suitable employees?” Non-responses are treated as zero vacancies. Vacancy rates are defined as total vacancies, divided by the sum of total employment and vacancies. Data outliers are identified using regression analysis, and then dealt with by capping those vacancies at the 90th percentile level in each business size class.

To account for small quarterly sample sizes, data for the 500+ employment size group are imputed by using the aggregate historical ratios relative to the other business size categories from 2004 to 2016. Aggregate employment and vacancies are then reweighted by province and by industry based on quarterly data from Statistics Canada’s Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH), subtracting out public sector employment based on CFIB’s custom tabulations from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey (LFS).

National quarterly data are seasonally adjusted and trended using x-12 methodology. To deal with occasional missing data points, provincial and industry sector data are further smoothed before seasonal adjustment, and then re-adjusted afterwards to ensure their totals add up to national figures.

Because of the use of centralized moving averages, new quarterly data may result in revisions of past estimates. For that reason, simple rule-of-thumb statistical margins of error usually reported on surveys do not apply.

Comparison with Statistics Canada’s job
vacancy estimates

Beginning in Q1 2015, Statistics Canada's new
Job Vacancy and Wage Survey1 (JVWS) is
producing vacancy rate estimates that are almost
double the previous rates based on the Survey of Employment Payrolls and Hours (SEPH). The
JVWS's initial data are now almost identical to
CFIB's quarterly figures, largely because they now share closer survey methodologies. Most
significantly, Statistics Canada is now surveying owners and business managers in branch locations who are responsible for hiring, rather than head office payroll departments. Key remaining differences are the larger sample size of the JVWS and the seasonally adjusted nature of the CFIB data.


Previous reports:

+Help Wanted. Private sector job vacancies in Canada 2016

Q3 2016

Q2 2016

Q1 2016

+Help Wanted. Private sector job vacancies in Canada 2015

Q4 2015

Q3 2015

Q2 2015

Q1 2015

+Help Wanted. Private sector job vacancies in Canada 2014

Q4 2014

Q3 2014

Q1 2014

+Help Wanted. Private sector job vacancies in Canada 2013

Q4 2013

Q3 2013

Q2 2013

Q1 2013