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Close to 300,000 jobs remain unfilled in Q1

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May 17, 2013 by Staff Report

The percentage of unfilled private sector jobs remained steady at 2.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2013, representing approximately 295,000 full- and part-time jobs, according to data compiled by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

“As the economy has improved and unemployment has come down, companies, particularly smaller companies, have struggled to fill open jobs,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB’s chief economist and vice-president. “While unfilled jobs may seem harmless, they represent missed opportunity for business and the economy.”

Businesses with fewer than 19 employees had the highest vacancy rate (4.2 per cent), while businesses with 500 or more employees had the lowest (1.6 per cent). Recently, the federal government introduced changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program that could make it even harder for smaller firms to find the staff they need.

“Smaller businesses structurally have higher vacancy rates,” added Mallett. “The TFW program has been one way for these businesses to fill openings that they could not fill otherwise. Ironically, it was problems at larger firms that prompted changes to the program, yet it is smaller companies with legitimate challenges that will bear the brunt of the impacts.”

By sector, Canada’s construction industry has the country’s highest vacancy rate (3.6 per cent), although that rate is dropping. Other sectors seeing declines in Q1 are oil and gas (2.4), information arts and recreation (2.2), retail (2.0) and hospitality (2.6). Meanwhile, agriculture (2.9), transportation (2.5) and social services (2.2) have seen modest increases. The highest numbers of actual jobs available are in hospitality, retail, construction and manufacturing—each sector has 30,000-40,000 job openings across the country.

Saskatchewan now has the highest vacancy rate in the country (3.9). Alberta (3.7) and Newfoundland and Labrador (2.9) also have above-average vacancy rates, and both continue to rise. British Columbia and Quebec are right around the national average (2.5), while Manitoba (2.3), Ontario (2.1) Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (1.9) and Prince Edward Island (1.5) fall short of the national rate.

Job vacancies are defined as openings that have been vacant for at least four months because business owners have been unable to find suitable employees. First quarter findings are based on 2,909 responses, collected from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. The series is based on 78,792 responses going back to 2004.