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Help Wanted: Private sector job vacancies - Q3 2018

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December 2018
Ted Mallett, VP & Chief Economist

Canada’s private sector job vacancy rate has once again set new highs. Third quarter 2018 estimates show 3.3 per cent of jobs had been sitting vacant for at least four months because employers were unable to find suitable candidates. This compares to 3.2 per cent in Q2 of this year and 2.9 per cent in Q3 2017. Similar estimates from Statistics Canada map quite closely to CFIB's; their latest Q2 reading of 3.4 per cent is slightly higher, but most likely due to seasonal influences at the start of the summer hiring period.  

CFIB's latest count represents roughly 430,000 private sector openings--48,000 more that we had seen a year earlier. The pattern shows tighter labour markets now even compared to previous cyclical peaks in 2008 and 2014 brought on by oil and gas booms in the West. 

The labour market in Quebec, by far, continues to be the tightest in the country with its vacancy rate rising another 0.1 point to 4.1 per cent. Conditions also tightened slightly in Ontario (3.3 per cent), Alberta, Manitoba and Nova Scotia (each 2.6 per cent). The vacancy rate in British Columbia continues to be well above the national average at 3.7 per cent, but that estimate has remained steady for three straight quarters. In contrast, vacancies dropped back to a weak 1.3 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador and remained steady in Prince Edward Island (1.5 per cent), Saskatchewan (2.0 per cent) and New Brunswick (2.7 per cent).

Among broad industry groupings, the picture showed some divergence, with vacancy rates advancing in professional services, construction, agriculture and oil and gas. There was no change in other sectors. Vacancies also continued to put pressure on wages, with employers with at least one vacancy expecting to push average organization-wide wage levels up by 2.6 per cent—versus an average 1.7 per cent gain planned by businesses without any job openings.