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All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to the Canadian job market.

Contractor Quick Poll: How do you feel about 2018?


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Eagle regularly shares our outlook of the job market and technology industry, explaining the trends that we see in the market. Of course, what we see isn’t always the same as what independent contractors across Canada see.

As the year comes to a close, we what to know how you’re feeling about 2018 in your field. Will it be easier or harder to find a job? Feel free to share your insights in the comments below.

Calgary IT Job Market Update at the end of November 2017


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By Morley Surcon (Vice President Western Canada at Eagle) and Brianne Risley (Delivery Manager at Eagle)

The following is a short summary of the IT Labour and Job Market in Calgary – supply, demand, and dynamics.

There are 3 “Trends” That Eagle has Noticed Over the Past Months:

Calgary IT Job Market UpdateCalgary has Developed an IT Skillset Gap: Information Technology changes and evolves very, very quickly. This means that what is “leading edge” today, may be “old news” in a matter of months. Over the past 18 months, Calgary companies have had a focus on sustainment. As a result, contractors have not had the opportunity to work on the technologies that are pushing the industry forward and a noticeable gap has developed between the skills available in the local Calgary IT community and the types of technology that are now starting to be requested by some organizations. Eagle is finding that in areas such as Dashboarding, SaaS, Front-end Development and Cloud development, it is difficult to find local people with the experience/knowledge in newly-in-demand technology. For example, we are now seeing demand for people with CSS/Javascript vs. the C# .NET that used to be so prevalent in the Calgary market. The same is true in the SAP space, where our customers are now looking for people with Fiori or HANA experience. We are seeing that companies are reaching out to out-of-town resources to fill these ‘niche’ skills and, in some cases, are paying elevated rates to do so. Companies may also be bringing in outsourcing companies and/or specialty partners to implement new-technology focused projects, going the way of out-sourcing or out-tasking to supply niche resources rather than running the projects in-house themselves.

Move Toward Greater Simplification:  Companies have been working towards consolidation and standardization over the past months. This encompasses both the technology that they use as well as the business partners with which they choose to work. Organizations in Calgary have shed roles over the past year(s) and must, therefore, focus on their core business/industry. It is increasingly difficult to find “the cycles” to complete projects that they do not have the in-house skills to complete. We are seeing much less custom development work in favor of their chosen ERP’s solution and/or implementing off-the-shelf software packages with little customization. And, instead of building up their own teams, more organizations have been opting to outsource or out-task project work to 3rd parties. Additionally, many of the companies in Calgary have undergone a vendor rationalization, reducing the number of suppliers/outsourcers that they deal with on a daily basis. This represents a clear shift in the quantity and types of roles for which staffing agencies are being hired and a greater degree of simplification for the companies themselves.

M&A Project Work: In Calgary, the majority of any new project work across many sectors is attributable to mergers and acquisitions. The necessity of integrating IT departments, reporting capabilities and business processes standardization work has created a short-term ‘bump’ in contract work. Many of the projects are due to be completed early in the New Year (or before). Once finished, these companies will be shedding staff once again to remove redundancies due to overlap in roles between the two companies and freeing up the staff that were solely employed for the integration project work itself.

The Following Market “Conditions” Have Also Been Noted:

Rates: Rates for non-specialized roles have remained flat for the past 6+ months. The exception is for ERP as demand has increased, albeit often for specialized skillsets as described above. Company “rate roll-backs” have halted as the employee and contractor rationalizations have been completed.

Skills with High and Growing Demand:  Eagle has noticed increased interest for contractors with the following skillsets:

  • Front-End Developers
  • Java Developers/Software Engineers/DevOps
  • Cyber Security Consultants
  • Project Managers (Agile, ERP, some Infrastructure)
  • ERP (Fiori/UI5) enhancement/upgrade work
  • IT Reporting – Cloud tools for data visualization – Tableau, Spotfire, Hana and related data warehousing/BI work. Predictive analytics and driving business value from data stores.

Skills with Neutral Demand:

  • Network/Storage Administrators
  • SaaS implementations (Sales Force, Service Now, Workday) + Traditional ERP (SAP/PS/Oracle)

Skills for Which We Have Seen a Decline in Demand:

  • .NET Developers (this is the first time in 10+ years that demand for Java/Front-end skills have outstripped .NET in Calgary)
  • Server Analysts/Administrators (Outsourcing companies are handling much of this demand by leveraging overseas options)

Existing open roles for Calgary can be viewed on here Eagle’s Job Board.

**Disclaimer: The market summary above reflects Eagle’s own experience. Please understand that this does not include interaction with 100% of the market. Eagle’s clientele tend toward the larger enterprise companies, therefore experience in Calgary’s SMB market may be substantially different.

If your experience or observations have been different, I encourage you to leave a comment so all may learn from your perspective as well!

Quarterly Job Market Update Across Canada – Q3 2017


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Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

General Observations:

The unemployment rate at the end September was 6.2%, an improvement from the 6.5% unemployment rate at the end of June.  During the previous 12 months, Canada added 320,000 jobs (almost 289,000 full time).

For the purposes of this report I focus on the TSX and during the third quarter it returned to the Q1 level just above 15,600, a gain of about 500 points.

The oil patch continues to struggle, with the price of a barrel hovering in and around the $50 a barrel range.  The continued lack of support from the various levels of government has led to the cancellation of the Energy East pipeline.  This will mean (a) lost jobs, but also (b) reinforce a message to the investment community that Alberta oil is not a good investment.

The Canadian dollar has been relatively strong lately and in the third quarter ranged between 78c US and 82c US.

There is little change in the banking sector, which is one of the bigger employers in Canada.  The talent demands for the banks address areas such as regulatory changes, new product development, new service offerings and addressing the aging workforce.  On the other side, new technology and offerings also displaces some of the roles traditionally found at the banks.  The banks remain a good place to find employment, but increasingly the skills needed are specialised.

The telecommunications sector is another large employer in Canada.  Like the banks, this sector is operating in an environment affected by new technological change, demographic pressures and regulatory change in addition to extreme competition.  While they demand the best talent in order to compete, they are also careful about keeping employment costs under control, particularly as they are also acquisitive, which can mean a big focus on integration of acquired companies.  Some of the drivers of demand here include the highly competitive nature of the business, investment in infrastructure, technological innovation and a need to plan for a retiring “Boomer” workforce.

The US economy continues to add jobs, and over the third quarter averaged about 90,000 new jobs per month.  The demand for skills in the US is luring talent from Canada which is good for the individuals but not so good for Canada in the long term.

The demand for the “trades” continues unabated, as the construction industry seems to be forever busy.  Cranes dot the skies of Canada’s largest cities, and home renovation projects are hard to staff!

The three levels of government in Canada are big employers.  As an example almost all of the jobs added in Canada in September (about 100,0000) can be attributed to public sector jobs.  Clearly the increased government spending is not a boon for the economy, but good for those looking for public sector jobs.

The Canadian Staffing Index is an indicator of the strength of the largest provider of talent in any economy (the staffing industry) and an excellent barometer of the health of Canada’s economy. The reading at the end of the second quarter was 114, which was up from 110 last quarter, and also 110 in Q3 last year.

Here at Eagle, we experienced an expected drop in demand over the Summer months, of about 10% from the second quarter however demand was up 10% over the same quarter in 2016.  There was a corresponding drop in people looking for work over the Summer months.

More Specifically:

The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is Eagle’s busiest region, representing about 60% of our business.  It is also the 4th largest city in North America, containing more than 50% of Canadian head offices and with a population of approximately six (6) million.  This market continues to be one of the busiest markets in Canada, and we see strong demand from our clients for skilled talent.  There is some concern that new legislation from the Ontario Government (Bill 148) will have a negative effect on the temporary help market in particular.

Western Canada continues to struggle, receiving little help from our Federal government and not helping themselves much at the provincial level.  The cancelling of the Energy East pipeline was a tough blow for the region and optimism in the oil patch is low.  While the Conference Board had expected Alberta to be the fastest growing province in Canada for 2017 I doubt we will see that happen.  The BC economy continues to do well despite the concerns about legislation to curb foreign investment in real estate.

Eagle’s Eastern Canada region covers Ottawa, Montreal & the “Maritimes”.  Ottawa is very much a government town again, although there are some smaller tech companies rising from the ashes of Nortel, JDS and the previously large tech sector. The government continues to employ a lot of people (22,000 more in The NCR since the Liberal government took office) but despite significant Federal government hiring the unemployment rate in Ottawa has been a concern.  Quebec appears to be enjoying a renaissance as its unemployment rate is now better than Ontario’s, in addition to having healthier finances.  They have been able to attract industries (such as large data centres) to help the economy and add jobs.  It doesn’t hurt that their hydro rates are very competitive as opposed to Ontario’s situation.  The Maritime Provinces don’t represent a great opportunity for the job seeker, however PEI and Nova Scotia are both showing signs of an improving economy.

The Hot Client Demand.

At Eagle our focus in on professional staffing and the people in demand from our clients have been fairly consistent for some time.  Program Managers, Project Managers and Business Analysts always seem to be in demand. It might just be our focus, but Change Management and Organizational Excellence resources are in relatively high demand too. Digital, big data, data scientists, analytics, CRM, web (portal and self-serve) and mobile expertise (especially developers) are specializations that we are seeing more and more. On the Finance and Accounting side, we see a consistent need for Financial Analysts, Accountants with designations and public accounting experience plus Controllers as a fairly consistent talent request. Expertise in the Capital markets, both technical and functional, tends to be a constant ask in the GTA.  Technology experts with functional expertise in Health Care is another skill set that also sees plenty of demand.  This demand fluctuates based on geography and industry sectors, so we advise candidates to watch our website and apply for the roles for which they are best suited.

Outside of Eagle’s realm some of the in-demand skills include the classic tradespeople, drivers, and new tech skills like Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, video gaming skills etc.

Summary:

There are numerous good indicators for Canada’s economy and hence job seekers, but there are also some challenges on the horizon:

  • NAFTA re-negotiations may have a negative impact on our economy;
  • We don’t yet understand all the implications of the Energy East project being cancelled;
  • January in Ontario will see the introduction of Bill 148, a severe increase in minimum wage plus new labor laws that will hurt business and cost jobs;
  • January we will see the introduction of new carbon taxes in Ontario;
  • Our Federal Government is introducing new tax changes affecting small business, possibly to help pay for their out of control spending;
  • At the same time that Canada is raising taxes, the US is encouraging small business through tax breaks, which may well cost Canada as some companies will be forced to go where they can make money.

If all of this goes ahead, then we will see a big impact on the job market.

Canada added 320,000 jobs in the last year which is good news for today’s job seekers.  The BIG elephant in the room is whether the factors listed above will conspire to undermine our economy and create a government driven recession.

For job seekers there remain the bright spots, caused by demographic shifts (retiring Baby Boomers), jobs moving to Canada from more expensive places like Silicon Valley and companies developing new technologies.  The large employers, such as banking sector, insurance sector, retail sector, telecommunications sector and the construction industry will always require large workforces representing job opportunity. The growth of the “gig economy” creates new opportunities for people to define their own destiny and become mini-entrepreneurs, or build new enterprises.

The effect of US policy changes by the Trump administration remain to be seen.  Having said that, some possible impacts include immigration (positive for Canada); trade agreements & protectionist policies such as the NAFTA negotiations (possibly negative for Canada); and defense (possibly negative for Canada) all having some impact.

Job seekers should research and understand the growing sectors and where the in-demand jobs are.  They also need to be willing to go where the work is!  If I was looking for work I would be moving to the larger centres, investing in in-demand skills and increasing my marketability with the right “attitude”.

That was my look at the Canadian job market for the third quarter of 2017 and some of its influences.

How Canadian Developers Can Remain Competitive


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Brendhan Malone By Brendhan Malone,
Vice-President, Central Canada at Eagle

How Canadian Developers Can Remain CompetitiveLooking for new development skills to remain competitive in your field?  Perhaps Rapid Application Development and Front-End Design are in your future.

An interesting question in mapping out your career and determining what skills are most important for you involves both an evaluation, through research and data analysis, of the current market as well as what is coming next.  None of us have a crystal ball, but there are certain trends and information out there that can give us a better understanding of what is coming.

As the majority of consumers shift to their mobile devices to browse and purchase, so will employers’ demands in the skills they seek. Mobile development is one of the fastest growing environments in IT.  Skills such as Android app development, HTML5, iOS, CSS, JavaScript, and Angular are in such an incredible demand that there is simply not enough people to do the work that is already funded.

Over the last decade we have seen an incredible amount of development work move overseas.  Heavy development lifts are being completed in countries where labour costs are a fraction of what it would cost to do it here. Employers in Canada are no longer looking for consultants to sit behind a desk and code, that work has predominantly left the country.

As the Agile Methodology grows in popularity and consumers move to the mobile space, having the technical skills combined with an understanding of marketing and brand objectives of the end client will make you in high demand. What employers want now are collaborative, creative developers with an acute understanding of marketing and sales objectives who can work in a team environment.

Do you have the skills required to stay competitive and relevant in Canada’s fast-paced development space? If not, it may be time to take an inventory of your skills — hard and soft — and refresh or upgrade those that are lacking.

Quarterly Job Market Update for Q3 2016


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Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post was originally published on the Eagle Blog

General Observations:

The third quarter of 2016 continued the “new normal” for Canada’s economy, which was not a positive thing!  Until oil prices get up into the $70+ range, consistently, we are unlikely to see a recovery in the very important oil sector.  Interest rates remain low but need to edge up in anticipation of the next recession, but the mere suggestion of interest rate increases causes a weakening in the markets.  The US economy continues to improve, but we are not seeing the expected “pull through” that we have seen in the past.  The Canadian dollar hovers around the 75c US mark which makes it more expensive for imports and Canada imports more than it exports.

The unemployment rate at the end of the third quarter was 7% which was a 0.2% worse than the 6.8% of Q2, but slightly better than the Q1 rate of 7.1%.  During the previous 12 months Canada added 139,000 jobs which was 21,000 more than the 12 months up to last quarter.  In a sign of our changing times, the majority of these were part time jobs.

The stock market continues to be volatile, and is one of the sources of concern for the Bank of Canada.  For the purposes of this report I focus on the TSX and it has enjoyed a reasonable period of growth, currently at around 15,000 points as opposed to 14,100 points at the end of the 2nd quarter.

As already mentioned, the oil patch continues to take a pounding and we don’t anticipate much positive change before 2018.  With oil starting to settle at around $50 a barrel we are not likely to see the start of any major projects.  The reality is that many companies in the oil patch are considering even more cost saving initiatives including layoffs.  Many companies are looking at divesting Canadian assets and investing in other geographies with less opposition and more government support.  Many workers who migrated to the oil patch during the boom have left, which will make things even tougher when a recovery happens because it will be difficult to entice them back.

The Canadian dollar in comparison to the US dollar is a long way from the days when we flirted with, and passed parity.  At time of writing the dollar is hovering between 75c US and 76c US, which is just a couple of cents weaker than the end of Q2.  The good news is that this helps the oil patch because they sell in US dollars and most costs are in Canadian dollars.  It is also helpful to our manufacturing sector, but that sector has been severely depleted over the years and Canada is a net importer meaning that overall a weak Canadian dollar is not good for Canada.

The banking sector, while a big user of talent and one of the largest employers in Canada, is also very careful.  The banks continue to be very careful with their hiring and are being careful to control their staffing levels.  Toronto and Montreal continue to demand talent, just perhaps a little more restrained than in other times.

The telecommunications companies are other big employers in Canada and are also very cost conscious.  While they demand the best talent in order to compete, they too, are also careful about keeping employment costs under control.  Some of the drivers of demand here include the highly competitive nature of the business, investment in infrastructure, technological innovation and a need to plan for a retiring “Boomer” workforce.

The US economy continues to add jobs, but at a reduced rate of about 150,000 per month.  The demand for skills in the US will lure talent from Canada which is good for the individuals but not so good for Canada in the long term.  What has not happened, and is different from previous economic times, is that Canada’s economy has not improved along with our neighbours, which is one of the indicators of a “new normal”.

The construction industry seems to be forever busy, to which anyone trying to get work done will attest.  Despite the slowdown in the big jobs like the oil sands, there appears to be a constant demand caused by infrastructure upgrades in many of our cities and we have the promise of more such work funded by our growing national debt (was that my out loud voice?).

The Liberal government has been in place for about a year and are continuing to both spend and raise taxes.  One example is their forced carbon tax, which is really just a money grab (does anyone really think this money won’t go into regular government coffers?) and is going to cost Canada jobs and hurt Canada’s economy at a time when it can ill afford it.  There are some expected government projects and infrastructure spending initiatives that should benefit the private sector.  In addition, spending in some ministries will be reduced as others benefit from the new agenda.  Some opportunities will be seen in sectors such as health, environment and education.

The Canadian Staffing Index is an indicator of the strength of the largest provider of talent in any economy (the staffing industry) and an excellent barometer of the health of Canada’s economy. The latest score for the Index was 108 in September, which was up 2 basis points from the end of Q2.

Here at Eagle the big impact on our business continues to be the oil patch, but other clients are taking advantage of a tough economy to look at their cost base.  This has led to layoffs and slower hiring patterns.  Year-over-year the number of people applying for jobs has increased by about 11.75%.  Demand from our clients was down more than 8% year-over-year.  This suggests to us that the people affected by the layoffs are now active in their job searches.  We also believe that demand is very patchy, with no sectors booming in demand for professionals.

More Specifically:

Toronto is one of the largest cities in North America with a population exceeding 6 million and the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) is home to the most head offices (almost 700) and most head office staff (around 75,000) in Canada.  Consequently it is also the hottest job market in Canada and generates about 60% of Eagle’s business.  While it remains a busy market we have seen some impact from downsizing in large companies that has increased the availability of senior people in the market.  Having said all that, if I were looking for work this is where I would like to be.  The sectors that are always looking for people include the financial, insurance, government and telecommunications sectors in addition to the retail sector and the construction industry.  There is also a fair amount of demand in the engineering and manufacturing space.

Western Canada and more specifically Calgary as the “oil capital” of Canada, has taken the brunt of the hit from the drop in oil prices.  There have been multiple rounds of layoffs, and more are projected, with the possibility that it may be 2018 before we see a recovery.  When the big oil companies are hurting there is a trickle-down effect to all of the services companies that serve them and the local economy is affected in retail and housing specifically.  The NDP government has done nothing to help boost confidence in Alberta for investors.  It should not be forgotten that both Saskatchewan and British Columbia have an oil sector too, and while they have been equally hit, those provinces seem to be doing better because their economies are less dependent on one sector and certainly Saskatchewan is a better managed province.  We have seen reasonable, but not strong, demand for talent in Vancouver, Regina, Winnipeg and Edmonton but remain cautious about the longer term impact of the loss of oil revenues.  This could affect everyone as provincial tax coffers suffer and the ancillary businesses are hit.

Eagle’s Eastern Canada region covers Ottawa, Montreal & the “Maritimes”. There is a better mood in Ottawa and within the Federal Government (other than the morale issues caused by a non-functioning pay system) but that has not translated into a bunch of work, as we know the contracting process is long and arduous.   There is an expectation that the Liberal government will get some projects back on the books, and there is optimism that a new agenda will lead to more business in the National Capital Region specifically.  Montreal is relatively unchanged, not booming but a steady demand for resources, particularly in the financial and telecommunications sectors.  The Maritime Provinces have traditionally had higher rates of unemployment and this continues to be the case.

The Hot Client Demand

At Eagle our focus in on professional staffing and the people in demand from our clients have been fairly consistent for some time.  Program Managers, Project Managers and Business Analysts  always seem to be in demand. It might just be our focus, but Change Management and Organizational Excellence resources are in relatively high demand too. Big data, analytics, CRM, web (portal and self-serve) and mobile expertise (especially developers) are specializations that we are seeing more and more. On the Finance and Accounting side, we see a consistent need for Financial Analysts, Accountants with designations and public accounting experience plus Controllers as a fairly consistent talent request. Expertise in the Capital markets, both technical and functional, tends to be a constant ask in the GTA.  Technology experts with functional expertise in Health Care is another skill set that also sees plenty of demand.  This demand fluctuates based on geography and industry sectors, so we advise candidates to watch our website and apply for the roles for which they are best suited.

Summary:

Canada’s economy continues to languish, and since the last recession we have been caught in a continual low interest rate, stimulus focused cycle that has never quite taken off.  The more recent “oil recession” has hit Canada hard, given that we are a resource rich country and there is no near end in sight.  Statistics show there are jobs being added in Canada, but the numbers are not impressive particularly when you see how the US is doing and most of those jobs are part time.

Federal and provincial governments are talking about stimulus spending and infrastructure projects, so there is an expectation this will create some boost to the economy, although I have not seen it.  If interest rates remain low, as expected, and the dollar remains fairly low, then we might also see some further growth in Canada’s relatively small manufacturing base.

Given that investment portfolios have recovered from the 2008 recession, we are seeing a rise in the Boomer retiree population which will create demand for highly skilled resources.  With Canada’s overall unemployment rate at 7%, we can deduce that the unemployment rate for trades and skilled workers to be much lower, perhaps even approaching skill shortage levels.  Even in these uncertain times, we see shortages in many niche skill areas.

There are definitely still opportunities created because of those retiring Boomers and the need for companies to remain competitive.  We see opportunity in the construction industry, the financial sector, the telecommunications sector and the insurance sector.  We see the markets with the greatest demand as being Toronto, Vancouver and perhaps Montreal.  Ottawa is showing promise and could pick up if new projects are initiated by the federal government.  Government spending will also provide a temporary boost to employment as the stimulus money becomes available.

That was my look at the Canadian job market for the third quarter in 2016 and some of its influences.

Calgary Job Market Outlook: The New Normal


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Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

Calgary Job Market Outlook: The New Normal The New Normal” is a phrase that has been used to describe the aftermath of a paradigm-changing event.  As recently as 2014, Calgary’s economy/job market/opportunity outlook was very robust, then the floor fell out of the oil market.  Since then, over 40,000 knowledge worker jobs were lost and the city is sitting at 8.6% unemployment, 1.7% higher than the Canadian average of 6.9%.  Economists are predicting a continued contraction, but at a slowing rate, as Calgary find its new equilibrium.

Over the next 12 months, economic conditions will continue to improve, but few believe that the economic spin-off from the Oil industry can or will reach the pre-oil-crash highs.  Some companies are gone completely — whole industries have been shipped off to be served by the global labour force.  These are unlikely to come back.  Hence, talk of “the new normal”.

As the Calgary economy does begin turning around, it is anticipated that independent contractors (contingent labour) will be leveraged prior to direct, permanent job openings seeing a recovery.  New expectations with respect to lower contract rates and salaries will need to be adopted by the labour market, which is happening already. The premiums that Calgary workers have enjoyed for close to a decade will be brought in line, nearer to those of the rest of Canada. Companies will do their best to stick to the cost-cutting plans that they’ve put in place, resulting in limited opportunity to raise rates and build larger teams; and we may see stronger interest in “generalists” vs. “specialists” as the need to wear multiple hats will likely exist.

In the vacuum created by Calgary’s imploded Oil and Gas industry, we are seeing this city’s entrepreneurial spirit sparking to life.  Calgary has one of the youngest and best educated labour markets in North America.  Prairie values of strong work ethic and the ability to tighten belts are resulting in people making the needed adaptations to take transferable skills to other new and existing industries.  Organizations such as Calgary Economic Development are actively pursuing companies/industries remote to the city, encouraging them to re-locate or open new offices to take advantage of the surplus of knowledge workers, including many IT professionals, now available.  Some nay-sayers are beginning to draw parallels between Calgary and Detroit; however, the skills, education and entrepreneurial spirit truly set Calgarians apart.  A good article discussing Calgary’s favourable outlook can be found in this Globe and Mail article.

So, what is the “new normal” for the labour market in Calgary?  Well for the short to medium term, it is certainly going to mean continued pressure on independent contractor rates and employee salaries; and many Oil and Gas positions have left, never to return again.  However, in the medium-long term, Calgary’s prospects are still very bright — there will be a period of transition, re-building and re-tooling but the raw energy, enthusiasm and talent that exists in Calgary’s working population will help the City to re-invent itself.  The hurdles will be great, but our collective determination will be greater.  Calgary’s potential remains unmatched and it will, again, be the pearl of Canada’s labour market; Calgary’s economy will re-emerge, more diversified and, in this way, stronger than before.

My city’s new normal is coming and I, for one, am looking forward to our bright future!

The Future of Work: Technology and Automation


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David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

The Future of Work: Technology and AutomationAs the summer of 2016 rolls in, it would certainly appear that a phenomena that has been 30 years in the making is beginning to come to light. Rapid changes in technology and the job market are affecting the ways we live and work. For one example of major change, have a look at our neighbours to the south where an idea has seemingly and inexplicably risen to a level not yet fathomed other than as a joke mere months ago; the rise of The Donald, as in Trump, looks as though it may be here to stay… a scary thought indeed.

As a Canadian observer on the sidelines, there are some issues we certainly need to be aware of as the Trump vs Clinton presidential contest takes over our airwaves and party talk in the months ahead. For instance, Mr. Trump has made huge grounds on the backs of being anti-trade, anti-NAFTA in particular, claiming that trade is the mechanism with which Americans have lost thousands of manufacturing jobs to China, Mexico etc. Ours here is not to debate free trade but let’s look a little closer at what was the real change, the role technology has played, and crystal ball the perhaps forthcoming for IT jobs.

We do know for sure that both Canada and the US have lost manufacturing jobs over the last decade or more, Canada in particular has suffered deeper declines. The US’s lost jobs, though, in terms of productivity or manufacturing output, has increased dramatically, and manufacturers make on average more than twice the “stuff” they did in 1977. Therefore, it is safe to say the disruptive force at play affecting manufacturing jobs dramatically has not been trade, trade agreements, immigration or globalization. The disruptive force is technology and automation. And, while manufacturing jobs have disappeared, the business services sector grew over the same time and is now three times the size of the manufacturing sector.

So now what? The future of work stands to be disrupted like nothing we have seen in history. The pace of change in the way we work and work itself will be exponential in the coming years.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics are changing the way we work and live. Google, Facebook, Amazon, and IBM are all working very hard at monetizing their AI portfolio. The likely early leader will be Google and its DeepMind AI, an example of AI capable of deep learning, yes learning. In addition, Amelia is an AI created by IPsoft that has learned how to do the job of call center employees and in 20 languages. And of course, we all are aware of the pending arrival of the self-driving car.

The game changer is that AI is becoming good for more than routine and non-cognitive tasks and beginning to take over the cognitive or learning tasks. The new frontier is any job that humans can do is no longer safe. The so called “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is soon upon us and will undoubtedly change us all. Jobs will disappear BUT new jobs and perhaps new definitions of work itself will emerge, that much we know… I think.

First Quarter 2016 Canadian Job Market Review


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Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
CEO at Eagle

This post first appeared on Eagle’s CEO Blog on April 15, 2016

General Observations:

Canadian Job MarketThe first quarter of 2016 in Canada has been more of the same from last year.  The economic hit in the oil patch has meant more layoffs, high paying jobs being replaced by lower paying jobs and a hit to the general economy.  Changes in government have not had much impact on spending yet, although proposed “stimulus spending” is supposed to help (no commentary about our increased debt burden). We have also felt the lowered demand from foreign markets such as China as they have had their own economic issues to deal with.  It has not all been doom and gloom as a weak dollar has helped some sectors such as manufacturing, plus it is still business as usual for other sectors like the services sector, retail, banking, construction and telecommunications.

The unemployment rate at the end of the first quarter was unchanged from year end 2015, at 7.1%.  During the previous 12 months, Canada added 130,000 jobs which was 28,000 less than the 12 months up to last quarter.  When you consider the US is adding 200,000 jobs every month, we should expect to be adding 20,000 a month to keep pace.

TSXThe stock market continues to be volatile.  I focus on the TSX for this report and it hit a low of around 11,500 mid-January but has trended upwards since then, finishing the quarter at around 13,500.  This was 500 points higher than it finished last quarter.

The oil patch continues to take a pounding, with sentiment pessimistic about a near term recovery.  Many of our Calgary-based clients are now talking about 2018 as their expected recovery time, with the impact of layoffs still being felt.  We enjoyed the highs of $100+ per barrel, followed by lows below $30.  Currently we are seeing low $40 a barrel pricing with predictions suggesting high $40s by year end.  The impact on the Calgary economy has been significant and will get worse as severance packages dry up, and the same can be said for other areas with heavy dependence upon the oil industry.

Canadian dollar the LoonieTo be expected with our economy struggling, the Canadian dollar has also suffered.  Since the beginning of 2015 we have seen highs around 85c US, and lows at 69c US.  Currently the dollar sits at 78c US, which is not terrible but as always the currency is at the mercy of world events.  The good news is that this helps the oil patch because they sell in US dollars and most costs are in Canadian dollars.  It is also helpful to our manufacturing sector.  Exporters will enjoy favorable pricing too; however, exports have been adversely affected by the economic woes of our trading partners like China.

The banking sector continues to be a big user of talent and one of the largest employers in Canada.  The primary demand for talent is in Toronto and to a lesser degree Montreal.  While the competitive nature of the industry requires investment in innovation, technology and responsiveness to regulatory change there is also a need to control costs.  We have seen some fluctuation in demand as certain parts of the financial sector have been reducing staff while others have been hiring.  The banks have taken advantage of the economy to restructure and become more efficient, which is prudent business practice but again tough for the economy right now.

Mobile antena. Communication conceptThe telecommunications companies are big employers in Canada and are also very cost conscious.  While they demand the best talent in order to compete, they are also careful about keeping employment costs under control.  Some of the drivers of demand here include the highly competitive nature of the business, investment in infrastructure, technological innovation and a need to plan for a retiring “Boomer” workforce.  The recent purchase of Wind by Shaw might increase competition and potentially open up opportunities should all of the regulatory approvals go through.

The US economy has been adding more than 200,000 jobs a month and in 2015 added 2.65 million jobs.  This, in spite of the impact of a low oil price in their oil sector, has resulted in some skill shortages in certain areas.  This may result in more Canadian skilled workers being lost from the Canadian economy but is an opportunity for individuals needing to find jobs.

ConstructionThe construction industry in Canada appears to remain healthy and despite the slowdown in the big jobs like the oil sands, there appears to be a constant demand caused by infrastructure upgrades in many of our cities.  From cranes dotting the landscapes of our cities, through infrastructure work on our highways and home improvement projects everywhere the signs of an in-demand industry are plain to see.  We hear that companies have benefitted from labour that was “freed up” due to lay-offs in the oil patch.

The Liberal government has been in place for about six months now and are beginning to make their presence known.  We have seen tax increases and associated the benefit to the accounting firms as companies and high net worth individuals get more creative about reducing their tax burden.  There are some expected government projects and infrastructure spending initiatives that should benefit the private sector.  In addition, spending in some ministries will be reduced as others benefit from the new agenda.  Some opportunities will be seen in sectors such as health, environment and education.

The Canadian Staffing Index is an indicator of the strength of the largest provider of talent in any economy (the staffing industry) and an excellent barometer of the health of Canada’s economy. The latest score is for January and indicates a slight increase in demand for labour over December, and a similar increase over January in 2015.  This indicator is an aggregate of hours for all classes of labour and so it is my expectation that the impact has been greater on unskilled labour and that skilled talent has a much lower unemployment rate.

Eagle LogoHere at Eagle the big impact on our business has been the oil patch.    Year-over-year the number of people applying for jobs has increased by about 7% and there was a 32% increase in job applicants over last quarter.  Demand from our clients was down year-over-year, with 10% less orders in the first quarter of 2016.  That demand was, however, 18.5% higher than the last quarter.  This suggests to us that the people affected by the layoffs are now active in their job searches.  We also believe that demand is recovering, although that seems to be happening in sectors outside of the oil patch.

More Specifically:

cn towerToronto is the 5th largest city in North America with a population exceeding 6 million.  The GTA (Greater Toronto Area) is home to the most head offices (almost 700) in Canada and most head office staff (around 75,000).  Consequently it is also the hottest job market in Canada and generates about 60% of Eagle’s business.  While it remains a busy market we have seen some impact from downsizing in large companies that has increased the availability of senior people in the market.  Having said all that, if I were looking for work this is where I would like to be.  The sectors that are always looking for people include the financial, insurance, government and telecommunications sectors in addition to the retail sector and the construction industry.  There is also a fair amount of demand in the engineering and manufacturing space.

The Saddledome in CalgaryAs already mentioned several times, in Western Canada it is Alberta, and more specifically Calgary as the “oil capital” of Canada, that has taken the brunt of the hit from the drop in oil prices.  There have been numerous layoffs, and more are projected, with possibly another year before we see a recovery.  These layoffs affect not just the oil companies but also the industries that serve them and the local economy gets affected in retail and housing specifically.  The NDP government has done nothing to help boost confidence in Alberta for investors.  It should not be forgotten that both Saskatchewan and British Columbia have an oil sector too, and while they have been equally hit those provinces, seem to be doing better because their economies are less dependent on one sector.  We have seen reasonable, but not strong, demand for talent in Vancouver, Regina, Winnipeg and Edmonton but remain cautious about the longer term impact of the loss of oil revenues.  This could affect everyone as provincial tax coffers suffer and the ancillary businesses are hit.

Parliament building in OttawaEagle’s Eastern Canada region covers Ottawa, Montreal & the “Maritimes”. With the still relatively new Liberal government in place some projects that had been stalled have begun to move again, and there is optimism that a new agenda will lead to more business in the National Capital Region specifically.  Montreal is relatively unchanged, not booming but a steady demand for resources, particularly in the financial and telecommunications sectors.  The Maritime Provinces have traditionally had higher rates of unemployment and this is not changing much so work is tough to find.

The Hot Client Demand.

At Eagle our focus in on professional staffing and the people in demand from our clients have been fairly consistent for some time. That would include Program Managers, Project Managers and Business Analysts who always seem to be in demand. It might just be our focus, but Change Management and Organizational Excellence resources are in relatively high demand too. Big data, analytics, CRM, web (portal and self-serve) and mobile expertise (especially developers) are specializations that we are seeing more and more. On the Finance and Accounting side, we see a consistent need for financial analysts, accountants with designations and public accounting experience plus controllers as a fairly consistent talent request. Expertise in the Capital markets, both technical and functional, tends to be a constant ask in the GTA.  Technology experts with functional expertise in Health Care is another skill set that also sees plenty of demand.  This demand fluctuates based on geography and industry sectors, so we advise candidates to watch our website and apply for the roles for which they are best suited.

Summary:

There had been hope that 2016 would see the start of a turnaround in the oil patch, but that seems to be a moving target, with 2018 seeming like a more realistic time line.  The country is adding jobs, but the concern is that we have lost so many high paying jobs in the oil sector it is likely we are replacing them with lower skilled and lower salaried jobs.

Federal and provincial governments are talking about stimulus spending and infrastructure projects, so there is an expectation this will create some boost to the economy.  If interest rates remain low, as expected, and the dollar remains fairly low, then we might also see some further growth in Canada’s relatively small manufacturing base.

With Canada’s unemployment rate at 7.1%, we expect the unemployment rate for trades and skilled workers to be much lower.  Even in these uncertain times we see shortages in niche skill areas.

There are definitely still opportunities created because of the demographic pressures (retiring Boomers) and the need for companies to remain competitive.  We see opportunity in the construction industry, the financial sector, the telecommunications sector and the insurance sector.  We see the markets with the greatest demand as being Toronto, Vancouver and perhaps Montreal.  Ottawa is showing promise and could pick up if new projects are initiated by the new government.  Edmonton is anxious because a large part of its business is tied to the provincial government and tax revenues are down significantly due to the oil crisis.  The Conference Board, however, is suggesting that even Alberta will see GDP growth in 2016, with all provinces experiencing some modest growth.  Government spending will also provide a boost to employment as the stimulus money becomes available.

That was my look at the Canadian job market for the first quarter in 2016 and some of its influences.

Quarterly Job Market Update – January 2016


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Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
CEO at Eagle

This post first appeared on Eagle’s CEO Blog on January 25th, 2016

Canadian Job Market

General Observations:
2015 was a tough year in Canada, with GDP contracting for each of the first two quarters, Canada suffered a “technical recession”, and many businesses felt it!  The primary reason for the malaise was the impact on the oil sector caused by a low price per barrel.  Other impacts through the year have been the economic meltdown in China, which is a large consumer of Canadian raw materials, and of late the low Canadian dollar although that does help our beleaguered oil sector.

The unemployment rate at year end was 7.1%, which was 0.4% worse than 12months ago.  Over the course of 2015 Canada added about 158,000 jobs with about 18,010,000 employed.

TSXThe stock market was extremely volatile in 2015 experiencing a steady decline since about April.  One indicator that I follow for this report is the TSX which was at a high of about 15,500 in April and ended the year at around 13,000 but has actually declined another 1,000 since then.

As already mentioned the price of a barrel of oil has been a big factor in our tough economy and it does not look like it is getting better in the short term.  From its highs of well over $100 a barrel we are currently seeing sub $30 prices.  The impact in the oil patch has been layoffs, and more are expected with rates at this level.

Canadian dollar the LoonieTo be expected with our economy struggling, the Canadian dollar has also been suffered.  The 2015 high saw the Canadian dollar fetch about 83c US, and by the end of the year we were around 70c US.  Since then we have dipped below 70c!  The good news is that this helps the oil patch because they sell in US dollars and most costs are in Canadian dollars.  It is also helpful to our manufacturing sector, however that sector has been severely depleted over the years when the dollar was stronger so I don’t expect that much impact for Canada.  Given that our exporters have also been hit by the slowdown in China another expected area of benefit is reduced.

The banking sector continues to be a big user of talent and one of the largest employers in Canada.  The primary demand for talent is in Toronto, but there is also demand in Montreal.  While the competitive nature of the industry requires investment in innovation, technology and responsiveness to regulatory change there is also a need to control costs.  We have seen some fluctuation in demand as certain parts of the financial sector have been reducing staff while others have been hiring.  The banks have taken advantage of the economy to restructure and become more efficient, which is prudent business practice but again tough for the economy right now.
cell towerThe telecommunications companies are big employers in Canada and are also very cost conscious.  While they demand the best talent in order to compete, they are also careful about keeping employment costs under control.  Some of the drivers of demand here include the highly competitive nature of the business, investment in infrastructure, technological innovation and a need to plan for a retiring “Boomer” workforce.  The recent purchase of Wind by Shaw might increase competition and potentially open up opportunities should all of the regulatory approvals go through.

The US economy has been adding more than 200,000 jobs a month and in 2015 added 2.65 million jobs.  This, in spite of the impact of a low oil price in their oil sector, has resulted in some skill shortages in certain areas.  This may result in more Canadian skilled workers being lost from the Canadian economy but is an opportunity for individuals needing to find jobs.

ConstructionThe construction industry in Canada appears to remain healthy and despite the slowdown in the big jobs like the oil sands, there appears to be a constant demand caused by infrastructure upgrades in many of our cities.  From cranes dotting the landscapes of our cities, through infrastructure work on our highways and home improvement projects everywhere the signs of an in-demand industry are plain to see.

The Federal election saw a change in government which will have an impact on Canada’s economy.  In the short term, tax increases and rhetoric from a left leaning government has caused some loss in confidence and willingness to invest.  In the longer term I expect that as the government begins to implement its agenda it will create opportunities in various sectors such as Health, environment and education.

The Canadian Staffing Index is an indicator of the strength of the largest provider of talent in any economy (the staffing industry) and an excellent barometer of the health of Canada’s economy. The latest score suggests a continued slowdown in demand for labor in 2015, ending the year down slightly over 2014.  This indicator is an aggregate of hours for all classes of labor and so it is my expectation that the impact has been greater on unskilled labor and that skilled talent has a much lower unemployment rate.

Eagle logoHere at Eagle the big impact on our business has been the impact on the oil patch.    Year over year the number of people applying for jobs has been relatively consistent, but there was a decline of 22.5% in demand from our clients in 2015, almost exclusively attributed to the Calgary market

More Specifically:

cn towerThe GTA (Greater Toronto Area) is the hottest job market in Canada and generates about 60% of Eagle’s business.  While it remains a busy market we have seen some impact from downsizing in large companies that has increased the availability of senior people in the market.  Having said all that, if I were looking for work this is where I would like to be.  The sectors that are always looking for people include the financial, insurance, government and telecommunications sectors in addition to the retail sector and the construction industry.  There is also a fair amount of demand in the engineering and manufacturing space.

oil rigsAs already mentioned several times, in Western Canada it is Alberta, and more specifically Calgary as the “oil capital” of Canada, that has taken the brunt of the hit from the drop in oil prices.  All of the major oil companies are headquartered in Calgary and cost cutting has resulted in many layoffs, with many more projected in the first half of 2016.  These layoffs affect not just the oil companies but also the industries that serve them such as technology, services, engineering and transportation companies.  The uncertainty facing the oil patch from the relatively new NDP government has reduced confidence and future investment is also at risk.  The “oil sector bust” will pass but it remains to be seen whether investment will remain in Alberta bringing back the jobs that have been lost to date.  Elsewhere the impact has not been as bad, with Vancouver, Regina and Edmonton still in need of talent but nervous about the longer term impact of the loss of oil revenues.  This could affect everyone as provincial tax coffers suffer and the ancillary businesses are hit.

Parliament building in OttawaEagle’s Eastern Canada region covers Ottawa, Montreal & the “Maritimes”. With a new federal government in place some projects that had been stalled have begun to move again, and there is optimism that a new agenda will lead to more business in the National Capital Region specifically.  Montreal is relatively unchanged, not booming but a steady demand for resources particularly in the financial and telecommunications sectors.  The Maritime Provinces have traditionally had higher rates of unemployment and this is not changing much so work is tough to find.

The Hot Client Demand.
At Eagle our focus in on professional staffing and the people in demand from our clients have been fairly consistent for some time. That would include Program Managers, Project Managers and Business Analysts who always seem to be in demand. It might just be our focus, but Change Management and Organizational Excellence resources are in relatively high demand too. Big data, analytics, CRM, web (portal and self-serve) and mobile expertise (especially developers) are specializations that we are seeing more and more. On the Finance and Accounting, side we see a consistent need for financial analysts, accountants with designations and public accounting experience plus controllers as a fairly consistent talent request. Expertise in the Capital markets, both technical and functional, tends to be a constant ask in the GTA.  Technology experts with functional expertise in Health Care is another skill set that also sees plenty of demand  This demand fluctuates based on geography and industry sectors, so we advise candidates to watch our website and apply for the roles for which they are best suited.

Summary:

Canada has been weathering somewhat of a storm, and if the oil industry picks up through 2016 then we should be in reasonable shape.  We are adding jobs, and the bigger impact of the downturn have been very regionalised, which has been bad news for Alberta but certainly some people are finding jobs in other geographies and sectors.  Relatively new governments in Alberta and at the Federal level could mean new policies that will create opportunities.  One question will be how much business confidence is affected by the new agendas of these governments.

While Alberta has suffered most, with recession-like symptoms, the rest of Canada endured a technical recession for the first half of the year but the second half saw some growth, and 2016 is expected to be better.  Canada’s unemployment rate is at 7.1% which is not great, but the unemployment rate for skilled workers will be far lower.  Even in these uncertain times we see shortages in niche skill areas.

There are definitely still opportunities created because of the demographic pressures (retiring Boomers) and the need for companies to remain competitive.  We see opportunity in the construction industry, the financial sector, the telecommunications sector and the Insurance sector.  We see the markets with the greatest demand as being Toronto, Vancouver and perhaps Montreal.  Ottawa is showing promise and could pick up if new projects are initiated by the new government.  Edmonton is anxious because a large part of its business is tied to the provincial government and tax revenues are down significantly due to the oil crisis.  The Conference Board however is suggesting that even Alberta will see GDP growth in 2016, with all provinces experiencing some modest growth.

The unemployment rate at 7.1% could be easily reduced with some positive news on the oil front and some positive moves by the governments (Federal and Provincial) in power.  If that happens we could quickly move back to a full employment situation and start to run up against the different issue of finding enough people!  Of course my crystal ball is about as good as anyone else’s, so we will wait and see how the economy unfolds over the balance of the year.

That was my look at the Canadian job market for 2015 and some of its influences, with a view to how it might affect employment in 2016.

Island in a Storm: Outlook for Edmonton in 2016


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Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Branch Manager at Eagle

Island in a Storm: Outlook for Edmonton in 2016I recently attended a presentation given by John Rose, Chief Economist for the City of Edmonton, where he offered an analysis of what the future — short and medium term — held for Alberta’s capital city. While the province’s struggles in the wake of an excruciatingly low-priced barrel of oil is well documented, he offered a cautious but mildly optimistic outlook for the city itself. The following are the salient points as I saw it:

  1. Rose predicted modest growth for Edmonton in 2016, likely somewhere around 1%, which is a slowdown from past years when growth hovered closer to 3% and higher.
  2. Construction, Public Administration, and growth in the Retail sector in Edmonton have offset losses connected to stagnation in the resource sector and he felt Edmonton will be much quicker than the rest of the province to return to more robust growth in late 2016 or early 2017.
  3. Growth in Edmonton will be dependent on government investment. Should resource revenues and oil prices continue to remain unusually low and government decides to drastically reign in spending as a result, all bets are off and further recessionary pressures would be forthcoming.
  4. Unemployment in the province will increase by as much as 3.5 to 4.0% in the North (Wood Buffalo) and South (Lethbridge/Medicine Hat) and Fort McMurray, Red Deer and Calgary are seeing a surge in job losses. Edmonton is likely to see this key indicator grow as well, but only by 1.0%.
  5. Low oil prices will continue into 2017 when a potential slowdown in US production helps firm up the cost of a barrel. However, Mr. Rose was quick to point out that he doesn’t see the price of oil returning to the $100 mark and that the new normal would be between $50 and $80.
  6. While a slowdown is not typically ideal for any economy, Mr. Rose did point out that continued low interest rates and modest inflation pressures would contain cost escalation for capital projects and gives the city a chance to address infrastructure and services deficits and that now is perhaps as good as any time for investment in our future.

While I’m unqualified to make these types of predictions, I can say that what I am seeing in the Edmonton market and from conversation with our clients, these observations are accurate for now. A downturn in some sectors has been offset by activity in others and Edmonton remains, at least for now, a viable and prosperous city with excellent opportunities for professional contractors.