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Canada lost some jobs in July, but at least 400K positions are still up for grabs

While Friday’s employment data showed the economy lost 24,000 jobs in July, there are still far more jobs available than there were one year ago.

A new report from Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) says there were 429,000 job vacancies in the private sector alone in the second quarter, 23,000 more than in the same period in 2018.

That’s in line with Statistics Canada’s most recent job vacancy numbers, which include unfilled positions in the public and private sectors. It found there were 506,000 vacant jobs in the first quarter of 2019, up 44,000 from the previous year.

But just like with July’s employment numbers, the CFIB report — based on a survey of 2,101 businesses — found there’s considerable variation from region to region.

While the national average shows that 3.2 per cent of Canadian jobs are vacant, there are “very different pictures across the country,” said Ted Mallett, vice-president and chief economist for CFIB.

In Quebec and British Columbia, the vacancy rate is 3.9 per cent, followed by Ontario at 3.2 per cent. “We’re seeing increased weakness in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Those two provinces are still sputtering and never really recovered from the oil price crunch of of 2015-2016.”

In Alberta, job vacancies shrunk slightly to just 1.9 per cent, the lowest in the country, while Saskatchewan vacancies shrunk by the same amount to 2.1 per cent.

‘Islands of economic development’

While still well below the national average, vacancies increased to two per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador, 2.2 per cent in Prince Edward Island, 2.3 per cent in Nova Scotia and 2.6 per cent in Manitoba.

New Brunswick vacancies are close to national average at 3.1 per cent, up 0.1 per cent from the previous month, the report found.

So how does Canada better align open jobs with the people who need them?

Part of the solution could be to eliminate barriers that make it difficult for people to take their skills to regions with more demand for their skills.

Mallett said Canada’s provinces have traditionally been “islands of economic development policy” not particularly geared to mobility between regions.

If all provinces and territories would recognize each others’ labour accreditation boards and law societies, for example, it could smooth the process for workers who are willing to move and benefit the businesses facing labour shortages.

Julia Pollak, a labour economist for online job marketplace ZipRecruiter, said the overall picture for Canada’s labour market is still a good one. (Supplied by ZipRecruiter)

Also affecting the July unemployment rate — which rose to 5.7 per cent in July from 5.5 in June — the total number of people looking for work has been increasing, said Emmanuelle Bourbeau, senior economist with Statistics Canada’s Centre for Labour Market Information.

Although it’s beyond the scope of Statistics Canada’s monthly Labour Force Survey to determine why that is, other research has found that positive job numbers like the kind Canada’s economy has been creating over the past year may encourage more people to enter the labour market, she said.

We’re seeing a lot of good new jobs created in Canada.— Julia Pollak

Bourbeau cautioned against reading too much into one month of job losses. “We should wait longer to see if that’s a trend.”

A few months of job losses could indicate declining employment opportunities, but it’s too soon to say if the labour market is truly softening.

Year over year, the economy created 353,000 new jobs, and 326,000 of those were full-time, said Bourbeau.

Julia Pollak, a labour economist with Zip Recruiter, an online job marketplace, also warned against drawing hasty conclusions from the July jobs data “because the numbers are very volatile.”

“The broader picture is one of a pretty healthy labour market,” she said, citing high participation, low unemployment and most recently, some decent wage growth.

“We’re seeing employment go up in tech, in science, in professional occupations, and those are places where wages are high, working conditions are good, and job security also tends to be high. So we’re seeing a lot of good new jobs created in Canada.”