TD report debunks looming labour shortage theory

Unemployment rates lower than average, vacancy rates slightly higher
||Last Updated: 10/22/2013

Rumors of Canada’s impending labour shortages have been greatly exaggerated, according to a new report from TD Bank.

On Oct. 22, the bank released Jobs in Canada, a report that debunks the so-called looming skills shortage in the labour market. In it, TD indicated jobs initially thought to have been lacking (such as trades, engineering and health care) have considerably lower unemployment rates than average – and vacancy rates that are only moderately higher.

“Perceptions can take on a life of their own without hard underlying facts supporting them,” said Derek Burleton, deputy chief economist at TD and study author. “Despite Canada’s solid track record in creating jobs, there are inherent vulnerabilities in the labour market and skills development that are holding back the economy’s potential. Bold and complementary action across governments, employers, employees and educators is needed to ensure that living standards continue to grow.”

Compared to other G7 countries, Canada’s job record has been strong – due in large part to the greater participation of older workers and a gravitation towards non-standard job structures. As well, temporary jobs, especially contract positions, are becoming a common trend. They now make up one in seven positions.

Burleton also discovered a “polarization” of the labour market, in which there is a high demand for high-skilled jobs and low-skilled jobs, but at the expense of medium-skilled jobs.

Perhaps not surprisingly, vacancy rates in the prairie provinces were on the up, especially in those occupations forecasted to be at the centre of the shortfall. Moreover, employers in Alberta and Saskatchewan had trouble filling those positions, the report noted.

“However, the story on the wage data remained curious, as wage gains out west across the occupation spectrum have not increased to the extent that one might have thought,” explained Sonya Gulati, TD’s senior economist and one of the study authors.

Economists at the bank used unemployment, wage and vacancy rates for about 140 occupations to compile the data in the report.

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