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Help Wanted: Private sector job vacancies - Q2 2019

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August 2019

Ted Mallett, VP and Chief Economist

Private sector job vacancies in Canada have held on to their historic highs. The vacancy rate remained at 3.2 per cent in Q2, the same as levels recorded in the three previous quarters. CFIB's latest count represents roughly 429,000 private sector unfilled openings, about 1,000 more than in the first quarter of 2019 and 23,000 more than a year ago. 

Although it looks like vacancy measures may have topped out, there are still some under-performing job markets in Canada which, if corrected could still theoretically push the national average rate higher. The vacancy rate in British Columbia is still on the rise at 3.9 per cent. Quebec's is the same, but reflects a slight settling from 4-plus per cent estimates late last year. Vacancy rates in Ontario (steady) and New Brunswick (still rising) occupy spots close to the national average, while all other provinces come in less than that. 

Rates, though, are trending up in parts of the country—Manitoba (2.6 per cent), Prince Edward Island (2.2 per cent) and Newfoundland and Labrador (2.0 per cent). No change was seen in Nova Scotia (2.3 per cent), while continuing weakness in Alberta and Saskatchewan pushed their vacancy rates down a bit to 1.9 and 2.1 per cent respectively. 

There are similarly wide variations by industry, but it is often to do with business size characteristics. Small businesses tend to have structurally higher vacancy issues compared to their larger counterparts. 

Although geography and sector are factors, the drivers of vacancies are more significantly determined by future outlooks, growth intentions, business size and firm-specific job characteristics. There is also a strong influence on wages. Employers with at least one vacancy expect to push average organization-wide wage levels up by 2.3 per cent in Q2—versus a 1.5 per cent gain planned by businesses without any job openings.