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Labour shortages plague small businesses: 430,000 jobs unfilled in Q3 2018

Toronto, December 4, 2018 – Labour shortages continue to trouble small and medium-sized businesses in the third quarter of 2018, with the job vacancy rate rising to 3.3 per cent, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)’s latest Help Wanted report. In total, roughly 430,000 private sector openings remained unfilled for at least four months because employers were unable to find qualified candidates.

“We’re seeing the job vacancy rate rise above the records set before the 2008 financial crisis, and businesses are really feeling the pressure, especially in Quebec, BC and Ontario,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB’s vice president and chief economist. “Businesses will likely respond to these trends by investing more in capital than labour in 2019, along with redistributing wages to key roles in the company.”

Employers with at least one vacant post experienced more pressure to increase wages, expecting to push average organization-wide wage levels up by 2.6 per cent, compared to an average 1.7 per cent gain planned by businesses without any job openings.

Results by province
Quebec continues to lead the country with the tightest labour market, at a 4.1 per cent vacancy rate. British Columbia maintained its 3.7 per cent vacancy rate, while Ontario experienced a slight increase to 3.3 per cent. Nova Scotia and Alberta also saw an increases to 2.6 per cent, while New Brunswick (2.7 per cent) and Manitoba (2.6 per cent) held steady. Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador trailed the rest of the country at 2 per cent, 1.5 per cent and 1.3 per cent respectively.

Provinces Vacancy rate Change Unfilled jobs
Quebec 4.1% +0.1% 117,700
British Columbia 3.7%   67,100
Ontario 3.3% +0.1% 167,900
New Brunswick 2.7%   6,300
Manitoba 2.6%   11,300
Nova Scotia 2.6% +0.1% 7,900
Alberta 2.6% +0.1% 41,800
Saskatchewan 2.0%   6,900
Prince Edward Island 1.5%   700
Newfoundland & Labrador 1.3% -0.1% 2,100

Job vacancies by industry
Vacancy rates advanced in professional services, construction, agriculture and oil and gas, but remained unchanged in other sectors. Personal services maintained the highest vacancy rate at 4.8 per cent, followed by construction (4.4 per cent) and professional services (3.8 per cent). These sectors also tend to have smaller businesses on average, which tend to experience higher vacancy rates than large firms. The finance and information sectors had the lowest vacancy rates at 2.1 per cent and 1.8 per cent respectively.

For information on the overall results by province and industry, please consult the Q3 2018 Help Wanted report.

For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:
Milena Stanoeva, CFIB
[email protected]

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 110,000 members across every industry and region. 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

December 4, 2018

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