Talent Development Centre

Canadian Job Market Update for November 2020

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee, Co-Founder of Eagle

One of the ways Eagle adds value is to provide regular job market information.  Sometimes it is a look at Canada as a whole and other times we focus more in-depth on specific markets.  This update is a high-level look at the Canadian job market, and the factors influencing it.  In previous months we have provided market updates, specific to different markets, which you can find through the links here:

Canadian Job Market Quarterly Update Across CanadaThere are a number of indicators that I have used over the years to give an idea of how things are going.  One such indicator is the markets, and for this purpose I have focused on the TSX.  When the pandemic hit back in March, the TSX dropped to 11,350, and here in mid-November it is sitting at 16,800.  In the last five years it has rarely been above this level, except for a few months just before the pandemic hit.  Generally, the markets have performed well even during a pandemic!

The unemployment rate is an obvious indicator for the job market, and as I write this the unemployment rate is at 8.5%.  Employment is coming back with employment numbers improving on average by 2.7% every month since May.  The recovery of course is very uneven with some professions taking a real hammering.  In April there were about 5.5 million Canadians whose jobs were affected due to the pandemic, and currently that number is about 1.1 million. So improvement, but if you are unemployed, that doesn’t pay the bills.  Surprisingly, according to Statistics Canada, the professional, scientific and tech professions are in a better position today than pre-COVID.  Another indicator saw October as the first month where the self-employed numbers improved since March, which is perhaps the start of good news for our independent contractor community.  In April, Eagle experienced a 70% drop in orders from our clients but have experienced a steady recovery since then, such that order levels are about 80% of the pre-COVID demand.  This of course can change as lockdowns and outbreaks occur, but we are optimistic that we will not go back to the April levels of unemployment.

Job seekers willing to “go where the jobs are” will always fare better than those unwilling to relocate.  In Canada, the four largest provinces represent close to 90% of the jobs, with Ontario being the largest (close to 40%); Quebec (approx. 23%); BC (13.5%) and Alberta (12.5%).  So, when considering where to look for jobs, a province that employs a lot of people and has a relatively low unemployment rate is a good place to look — BC, Quebec and Ontario all fit that bill.  Alberta is still struggling because of the hit on the oil and gas sector.

One of the big factors affecting the Alberta market is the price of oil.   The price of a barrel in Canada is just under $30 and between $13 and $15 less than world prices.  One factor for this price differential is Canada’s reliance on just one client, the United States.  Unless this changes that will likely remain a factor in Alberta’s economy.   There are however still opportunities in Alberta, just not the booming demand we saw in the past.

The US is Canada’s largest trading partner and represents both opportunity and risk.  A Democratic government is not likely to be a friend to the oil and gas sector, which will continue to hurt Alberta.  Pre-COVID, the US enjoyed record levels of employment, with significant skill shortages.  There has been a significant dampening on the jobs front during the pandemic.   We have seen significant investment in Canada by large US companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google etc. all adding to their Canadian presence to tap into the talent up here, and I expect that to continue, but likely after the recovery.  Canada is also currently able to attract skilled immigrant talent easier than in the US, whose immigration laws are more prohibitive, but a change in government in the US is likely to ease that issue.  We will know more as the new administration rolls out its plans.

Tech job activity was very strong pre-COVID and while we have not recovered to the same levels yet, there is still good opportunity for in-demand skills across Canada, and that demand is increasing.  Technology has played a huge part in allowing companies to operate during the pandemic, with Digital Transformation allowing work from home strategies and websites, security and payments systems playing a significant role in the proliferation of online buying.  We typically suggest the tech unemployment rate as being about half of the general unemployment rate, but in COVID times, I would suggest an even wider gap.  The general unemployment rate of 8.5% includes the huge impact on the hospitality, travel and retail world while many tech professionals have been able to continue to work from home.  It would surprise me if the tech unemployment rate is more than 4%, which is not far off full employment.

For a more detailed look at the specific markets across Canada I suggest you read the linked writeups from Eagle’s Executive team across the country, referenced earlier.

Eagle’s focus is technology professionals and the most in demand areas/skills recently have included: Cloud, Government, Telecom, Security, Payments, CRM, Digital, Big Data, BI and AI; Agile BAs, Change Management, Quality Assurance, Architects, Solution Architects, Front & Back end developers, Full Stack developers, DevOps engineers; and even mainframe is making a comeback!

In summary, people with those in-demand tech skills and experience should have little difficulty in finding employment, either contract or perm if not immediately, then very soon!  A willingness to relocate to the bigger centers will only increase marketability.

It remains to be seen when things will return to something “more normal”, but life needs to go on and people in tech are in demand, many can work from home and that demand is only going to increase.

For employers our advice is this:

If you see great talent that will be a fit in your organization then act now, because their availability will not last long.  We will return to skills shortages sooner rather than later.

Now is a great time to refine and speed up that hiring process!  Finding, screening, hiring and onboarding can all be done remotely and efficiently, and will become an absolute necessity very soon.  We are still seeing our candidates receive multiple job offers and clients losing talent because they are too slow to make a decision, even now!

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