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Help Wanted: Private sector job vacancies, Q4 2018

February 2019

Ted Mallett, Vice President and Chief Economist

The fourth quarter of 2018 saw a slight easing in Canada's private sector job vacancy rate. The latest estimates show that 3.1 per cent of jobs remained vacant in the final three months of the year, down 0.1 points from the revised 3.2 per cent estimate in the previous quarter. This is the first decline measured since Q2 2016. 

CFIB's latest count represents roughly 409,000 private sector openings--about the same as in Q3, but nearly 41,000 more that we had seen a year earlier. Despite the easing of the rate, the trend pattern shows labour markets remain tight by historical standards.  

The labour market in Quebec, by far, continues to be the tightest in the country with its vacancy rate holding steady at 3.9 per cent. Conditions in BC are almost as tight, with the vacancy rate there at a stable 3.5 per cent. Ontario also showed no change at the national average rate of 3.1 per cent. 

Vacancy rates declined in four provinces, dropping in Manitoba  to 2.4 per cent and in Alberta to 2.3 per cent. In the East, Nova Scotia's rate fell to 2.2 per cent while it dropped to the nation's coolest 1.5 per cent rate in Newfoundland & Labrador. There was no change registered in the  remaining provinces of New Brunswick (2.7 per cent), Saskatchewan (1.9 per cent) and Prince Edward Island (1.8 per cent).

Among broad industry groupings, the picture showed some divergence, with vacancy rates advancing slightly in agriculture, construction and wholesale trade, while falling back in resources, manufacturing, professional services and personal services. There was no change in other sectors. 

Vacancies also continued to put pressure on wages, but to a slightly lesser degree than in earlier quarters. Employers with at least one vacancy expect to push average organization-wide wage levels up by 2.3 per cent—versus an average 1.6 per cent gain planned by businesses without any job openings.