Vacancies hit a record over a million in March: StatCan

OTTAWA – The number of job vacancies across Canada reached an all-time high in March, ending a five-month decline, Statistics Canada said Thursday.

The agency said employers were seeking to fill more than 1 million jobs at the beginning of March, up 186,000, or 22.6 percent, from February and 382,000, or 60.5 percent, from a year earlier.

The non-seasonally adjusted job vacancy rate, which measures the number of vacancies as a proportion of all jobs, was 5.9 percent in March, matching the record high in September 2021.

Job vacancies increased by more than a third in housing, food services and retail while there were record job openings in health care, social assistance and construction.

Employers in the accommodation and food services sector were looking to fill 158,000 jobs with a vacancy rate of 12.8 percent, the highest rate of all sectors for the eleventh consecutive month.

There were 109,000 retail jobs available and 154,000 job openings recorded in healthcare and 82,000 in construction.

Job vacancies rose in all counties with the biggest increases in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Prior to March, job vacancies declined for five consecutive months due to seasonal patterns with increased economic activity driving up demand for labor.

A record low unemployment rate of 5.3 percent and a record high of 88.6 percent for workforce participation resulted in an average of 1.2 unemployed people per job vacancy in March, down from 1.4 in February and 2.6 in March 2021.

The percentages were lowest in Quebec and British Columbia and highest in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Meanwhile, average weekly earnings rose 0.9 percent from February and 4.3 percent year-on-year, double the increase seen in the previous month. The CPI rose 6.7 percent in March, from March 2021.

Statistics Canada also said the number of people working in retail exceeded the pre-pandemic level for the first time in March.

Retail jobs rose 0.7 percent, or 14,800 jobs, from February to move 9,600 jobs before things were in February 2020.

Employment in this sector was on par or above two years in all provinces, except for Ontario and Manitoba which respectively had 5,400 and 2,100 fewer jobs than before the COVID-19 pandemic that led to mass layoffs.

More than half of sub-sectors within the retail sector reported salary increases in March, led by food and beverage (up 7,400 jobs) and apparel and accessories stores (up 3,300).

Grocery store employment was 2.8 percent higher than its pre-pandemic level in March, but brewery, wine and liquor store jobs were 5.1 percent, or 2,600 jobs, below their level in February 2020.

Overall, the agency said employment rose 118,000, or 0.7 percent, between February and March to 17.3 million as public health measures were eased and capacity limits lifted overall.

The gains were driven by the service sector, with seven provinces seeing increases, led by Quebec, which reopened bars, pubs and casinos on February 28.

All provinces except Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador surpassed pre-pandemic levels in March.

This report was first published by The Canadian Press on May 26, 2022.

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