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Help Wanted: private sector job vacancies, Q3 2019

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November 2019

Ted Mallett, VP & Chief Economist

Private sector job vacancies in Canada have stabilized in the past year, but remain at historic highs. The vacancy rate held to 3.2 per cent in Q3, the fifth-consecutive quarter at that level. CFIB's latest count represents roughly 433,000 private sector unfilled openings, about 1,500 more than in Q2 2019 and 15,000 more than a year ago. 

There was relatively little movement among regions in the latest readings, but vast differences among them persist—reflecting very different labour market conditions. Vacancy rates in the Prairies and in Newfoundland and Labrador—areas most affected by the resource sector crunch—each pushed a tenth of a point higher, though they all remain under the national average by up to a full percentage point. All other provinces saw no change in rates in the latest quarter.

The most acute labour vacancy issues continue to be in Quebec (4.0 per cent) and British Columbia (3.8 per cent). Ontario is right on the national average at 3.2 per cent while rates in the Maritimes range from 1.9 to 3.0 per cent. 

There are similarly wide variations by industry, but sector-specific movements are showing up as well. Industries dominated by smaller-sized companies tend to have higher vacancy rates compared to big-business sectors. In addition, despite overall stability of the aggregate vacancy measure in the past year, we are noting gradually rising vacancy rates in the agriculture, information, and hospitality sectors, but declining rates in manufacturing, transportation, wholesale and retail.

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 Q3—versus a 1.4 per cent gain planned by businesses without any job openings.