Ted Mallett, VP & Chief Economist
Canada’s private sector job vacancy rate continued its upward trek through the final quarter of 2017. The fourth quarter estimate is now 3.0 per cent, up sharply from the 2.4 per cent in the same period a year earlier and is now higher than its pre-recession peak of early 2008. In aggregate terms, this represents about 399,000 jobs left unfilled for at least four months because employers have not found suitable candidates.
Higher vacancy rates are a sign of a stronger or shifting economy where fewer idle workers or changing skill-set needs make it more difficult for employers to find and retain the right candidates.
The labour market in British Columbia, already the nation's tightest, once again showed the biggest movement with its vacancy rate jumping 0.3 points to 3.9 per cent. More modest increases were widespread, with 0.1 per cent gains seen in Quebec (3.4 per cent), Ontario (3.2 per cent). Similar changes were seen in New Brunswick, Manitoba and Alberta, where rates now range between 2.3 per cent and 2.7 per cent.
Vacancy rates were unchanged in Newfoundland & Labrador and Saskatchewan, and remain low by historical standards. Vacancy rates eased back a little in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, each dropping 0.1 points to 1.6 and 2.0 per cent respectively.
Among broad industry groupings, rising vacancy rates in Q4 were higher in 8 of 14 sectors, rising the most in personal services, information, arts and recreation, retail and manufacturing. Vacancies also continued to put pressure on wages, with employers with vacancies expecting to push average organizationwide wage levels a half-point higher than those without.