Almost half of Atlantic Canada’s small businesses unaware of employment support programs amid labour shortages

St. John’s, May 29, 2024 - Despite the prevalence of labour shortages impacting 74% of small businesses, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) reports that almost one in two (45%) Atlantic Canadian small business owners are unaware of provincial employment support programs (ESPs) such as wage subsides and training grants.

A new CFIB report highlights that more than half (53%) of small businesses in the Atlantic provinces have not used ESPs due to a lack of awareness of the programs and ambiguity around eligibility requirements. “Some small business owners only learned about the existence of some programs after they received our survey, which highlights the need for improved government communication,” says Beatrix Abdul Azeez, Policy Analyst at CFIB. “These programs have the potential to ease some of the pressures of labour shortages, thus, it is imperative for the Atlantic governments to refine the way they promote them in order to improve awareness and uptake.”

Small business owners who have used the programs in the past year reported benefits such as reduced hiring costs and a faster hiring process. However, one third (28%) reported that the programs had no impact on their business citing issues like skills mismatches and unqualified candidates.

“There is significant value in consulting with small businesses prior to developing these programs. Such consultations will offer all Atlantic Canada’s governments a better understanding of small businesses’ needs, leading to better outcomes for all small businesses who participate in the programs,” added Abdul Azeez.

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Beatrix Abdul Azeez, CFIB


Final results for the Survey on the Effectiveness of Provincial Employment Support Programs. The online survey was conducted from October 17-30, 2023, findings are based on 300 responses. For comparison purposes, a probability sample with the same number of respondents would have a margin of error of at most +/-5.7%, 19 times out of 20.

Final results for April Business Barometer®. April findings are based on 657 responses from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. Data reflects responses received from April 2 to 17. Findings are statistically accurate to +/- 3.8%, 19 times in 20. Every new month, the entire series of indicators is recalculated for the previous month to include all survey responses received in that previous month. Measured on a scale between 0 and 100, an index above 50 means owners expecting their business’s performance to be stronger over the next three or 12 months outnumber those expecting weaker performance.

About CFIB

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses with 97,000 members across every industry and region, including 10,200 in Atlantic Canada. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at