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Help Wanted - Private sector job vacancies, Q4 2019

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February 2020

Ted Mallett, Vice President & Chief Economist

The private sector job vacancy rate saw virtually no change in Q4 2019, holding at 3.2 per cent. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the rate has held steady now for six consecutive quarters. CFIB's latest count represents roughly 434,000 private sector unfilled openings, about 2,400 more than in Q3 2019 and 9,000 more than a year ago. 

There was very little movement among regions in the latest readings as well—but the data still reflect very different labour market conditions. Vacancy rates in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador each pushed upwards by a tenth of a point to 2.5 and 2.4 per cent respectively—though they remain well under the national average. No other changes were registered among the provinces. 

The hottest labour markets continue to be Quebec, with 4.1 per cent jobs vacant, followed by British Columbia (3.6 per cent) and Ontario (3.2 per cent). There remains some slack in the Prairie provinces with vacancy rates ranging from only 2.1 per cent in Alberta to 2.4 per cent in Manitoba. Conditions in the Maritimes are similar, but a little more widely spaced—3.0 per cent in New Brunswick versus 1.9 per cent in Prince Edward Island. 

There are more notable changes by sector, however, with falling vacancy rates noted in agriculture, construction and retail. These movements are offset by increases in professional services, information, health care and hospitality. 

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 2.0 per cent in Q4—versus a 1.4 per cent gain planned by businesses without any job openings.