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Are we on the road to a labour market recovery in 2021?

Canadian job posting and skills demand trends for Q1
April 28, 2021

Just as the third wave of the pandemic began to hit Canada, the Canadian labour market was showing signs that it started a slow recovery. In March 2021, the unemployment rate reached 7.5%, the lowest it’s been since the onset of the pandemic.[1] While encouraging, this decline in unemployment - which is still 1.9 percentage points higher than the rate in January 2020 - is still far from a “return to normal”.

Our analysis of online job postings in Canada[2] tells a similar story of recovery in labour demand that has yet to reach its pre-COVID levels.  The third in a year-long series of labour market and job posting trends analysis by the Diversity Institute, with support from the Future Skills Centre, the analysis shows that there were 605,077 online job postings in Canada between January and March 2021, a 17 percent increase over the previous three-month period. As is illustrated in Figure 1, however, these job posting figures are still well below the levels for similar periods in pre-COVID years.

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Just as the third wave of the pandemic began to hit Canada, the Canadian labour market was showing signs that it started a slow recovery. In March 2021, the unemployment rate reached 7.5%, the lowest it’s been since the onset of the pandemic. While encouraging, this decline in unemployment - which is still 1.9 percentage points higher than the rate in January 2020 - is still far from a “return to normal”.

It is also worth noting that there are differences in the trend from province to province. Saskatchewan experienced the most growth in labour demand in this past quarter, with job postings for positions in the province increasing by 40 percent relative to the last quarter of 2020. Total online job postings for the three territories also increased by 42 percent. On the other hand, job postings in Quebec increased only by 7 percent in the same period.

Hiring demand increased for all occupation groups compared to the October-December 2020 period, although some occupations experienced higher growth than others. Compared to the previous quarter, Natural resources, agriculture and related production occupations, as well as Natural and applied sciences and related occupations, saw 32 percent and 26 percent increases in postings, respectively.

The Health care and social assistance sector continues to lead other sectors in online job postings having surpassed Retail trade in the last quarter of 2020.  As was the case in the previous quarter, close to one in five job postings came from the health sector. Remarkably, the number of job postings in this sector in the first quarter of 2021 is 44 percent higher than the same period in 2020. This is consistent with employment data from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey that shows that employment in the health sector in March 2021 surpassed the pre-pandemic level in February 2020.[3]

 

Job Postings in January-March

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There were 605,077 online job postings in Canada between January and March 2021, a 17% increase over the previous three-month period.

Although total job postings in Health care and social assistance for all of 2020 is lower than the job postings in the same period in 2019 (by 6 percent), the sector is the only major sector that has maintained consistent growth during the pandemic period. There was a 48 percent increase in job postings in the Health care and social assistance sector in the third quarter of 2020 relative to the second quarter, and a further 13 percent in the fourth quarter relative to the third quarter.    

The top jobs in this sector are professional occupations in nursing. Occupations in which the worker assists others in support of health services and home care providers are also among the occupations with high demand in the Health care and social assistance sector. Our third report in the Labour Market Insights series will explore in detail how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced the labour market for personal support workers and will assess trends in hiring demand, skills requirements, certification and likely future directions.

Shifting the focus from sectors and occupations, it is also interesting to note the skills that were the most in demand in the job postings from this period. Overall, skills that facilitate working with others are the most sought after. The majority of the job postings list at least one type of soft/general skills (94 percent), while 50 percent also list at least one specialized skills requirement. Overall, the top ten soft skills and top ten specialized skills remained the same, although among those skills some moved up in the the rankings during the pandemic while others moved down. For example, and perhaps not surprisingly, Occupational health and safety moved up from 5th place pre-pandemic to 2nd place in the most recent quarter.

Top 10 Soft/General Skills

 

Communication skills

Teamwork

Customer Service

Leadership

Flexibility

English language

Organizational Skills

Attention to Detail

Interpersonal Skills

Fast-paced Setting

Top 10 Specialized Skills

 

Project Management

Occupational Health and Safety

Analytical Skills

Budgeting

Sales

Teaching and Training

Accounting

First Aid

Office Administration

CPR

It is not clear whether the recovery observed in the first quarter of 2021 will be sustained in the coming months. As the third wave of the pandemic has triggered increased public health measures in several jurisdictions, including province-wide stay at home orders, new labour demand is likely to be subdued in the coming few months. On the other hand, the improved weather that comes with summer and rising vaccination rates may bring increased economic activity and heightened labour demand in the coming months.

[1]  Statistics Canada. (2021). Labour force survey, March 2021. The Daily. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210409/dq210409a-eng.htm?CMP=mstatcan, external link

[2] Data Sourced from Vicinity Jobs, external link, opens in new window ‘Hiring Demand Analytics Suite’.

[3] Statistics Canada. (2021). Labour force survey, March 2021. The Daily. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210409/dq210409a-eng.htm?CMP=mstatcan, external link

Labour Market Insights

A research series by the Diversity Institute

Reports in the Labour Market Insights from the Diversity Institute series cover a variety of topics relevant to the study of labour markets and are based on analyses of collated data from online job postings across Canada, as well as other traditional and innovative data sources. This project is funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre, external link, opens in new window.