Canadian job market increasingly a tale of have and have not occupations: CIBC

Some occupations find employers lining up to hire while others face the prospect of chronic unemployment

TORONTO, Dec. 3, 2012 /CNW/ - Canada's job market shows a growing divide between have and have not occupations, finds a new report from CIBC World Markets.

"On one hand, jobs go unfilled for long stretches due to a lack of skilled applicants," says CIBC Deputy Chief Economist Benjamin Tal. "In fact, the Prime Minister recently described skills shortages in the Canadian labour market as 'the biggest challenge our country faces'.

"But on the other end of the labour market spectrum, there is growing evidence that the size of the labour surplus pool is also on the rise. For a number of occupations, employment opportunities are increasingly disappearing. This labour market mismatch is big enough not only to reduce the effectiveness of monetary policy, but also to limit the growth potential of the labour market and the economy as a whole."

In his analysis, Mr. Tal found that traditional occupations like butchers, bakers, tailors, labourers in manufacturing, office managers and clerks are showing signs of labour surplus, along with secondary and elementary school teachers.

He found that the occupations with signs of skills shortages include many positions in traditional health care roles, such as doctors, nurses and dentists. The health care list also includes optometrists, chiropractors, pharmacists, dietitians and nutritionists. Mining, engineering and science occupations are also facing skill shortages.

Skill Shortages

No less than 30 per cent of businesses indicate that they face a skilled labour shortage, which is double the rate seen in early 2010. "The recent acceleration in that ratio has coincided with a stagnating employment rate—loosely illustrating the negative impact of skill shortages on employment growth," notes Mr. Tal. "What's more, while you will not see it in the relatively stable trajectory of the unemployment rate, the number of job vacancies reported by firms has risen by close to 16 per cent over the past year—bringing the vacancy-to-unemployment ratio to its highest level since Statistics Canada started publishing vacancy information. It is hardly a surprise that the highest vacancy rate is in Alberta, followed by Saskatchewan."

Mr. Tal identified 25 job groups that have shown signs of consistent skill shortages. By far, the largest skill shortage was found in health-related occupations, the mining industry, advanced manufacturing and business services. Put together, those occupations account for 21 per cent of total employment in Canada. "One-fifth of the Canadian labour market is currently showing signs of skilled labour shortage," says Mr. Tal. "The average unemployment rate of this pool of occupations is just over one per cent and their wages are now rising by an average annual rate of 3.9 per cent — more than double the rate seen in the economy as a whole.

"Overall employment in this group is rising by 2.1 per cent — much faster than the speed seen in the rest of the market, but obviously not fast enough to dent the labour market skill scarcity. In this context, the recently announced government plans to admit between 53,000 and 55,000 new Canadians in 2013 through an overhauled federal skilled worker program is a welcome development. However, it's simply not large enough to turn things around. Ditto for the increased focus on apprenticeship as a possible solution to the chronic shortage in skilled trades. Despite recent program improvements, the number of certificates granted to apprentices is still a fraction of the overall size of the skilled trades labour pool."

Labour Surplus

At the opposite end of the labour spectrum, Mr. Tal identified 20 occupations that were in a surplus category as demonstrated by higher/rising unemployment rate and decelerating wage growth. These jobs account for 16 per cent of total unemployment in Canada while their real wage growth was nil over the past year. Excluding this pool of unemployed, the national unemployment rate would have been almost 1.3 percentage points lower.

The average duration of unemployment in Canada currently stands at 16 weeks, which is five weeks above the prerecession level. There are currently 250,000 Canadians who have been unemployed for over six months - 18 per cent of total unemployment in Canada.

"Clearly the larger this measure is, the more serious are the policy and economic implications of a given unemployment rate," adds Mr. Tal. "Longer term unemployment was on a clear downward trend over the past two years, but its current rate is still notably higher than its long-term average. That is mostly the case among Canadians over the age of 45, suggesting that retraining must be an integral part of any solution.

"The practical implication of the growing job market mismatch in the Canadian economy is that this measure of long-term unemployment is more likely to start rising from its already elevated level. In fact, the exit rate from unemployment (the likelihood of exiting unemployment, for a job or for some other reason, within the coming three months after being unemployed for less than three months) is starting to head in the wrong direction, implying an upcoming upward pressure on long-term unemployment."

25 Occupations Showing Signs of Skills Shortages 20 Occupations Showing Signs of Labour Surplus
Managers in engineering, architecture, science & info systems Managers in manufacturing and utilities
Managers in health, education, social and community services Clerical supervisors
Managers in construction and transportation Clerical occupations
Auditors, accountants and investment professionals Clerical occupations, general office skills
Human resources and business service professionals Office equipment operators
Professional occupations in natural and applied sciences Finance and insurance clerks
Physical science professionals Mail and message distribution occupations
Life science professionals Secondary & elementary teachers and counsellors
Civil, mechanical, electrical and chemical engineers Sales and service supervisors
Other engineers Cashiers
Professional occupations in health Occupations in food and beverage services
Physicians, dentists and veterinarians Tour & recreational guides and amusement occupations
Optometrists, chiropractors & other health diagnosing/treating professionals Other attendants in travel, accommodation and recreation
Pharmacists, dietitians and nutritionists Technical occupations in personal service
Therapy and assessment professionals Other occupations in personal service
Nurse supervisors and registered nurses Butchers & bakers
Technical and related occupations in health Upholsterers, tailors, shoe repairers, jewellers and related occupations
Medical technologists and technicians (except dental health) Fishing vessel masters and skippers and fishermen/women
Technical occupations in dental health care Machine operators & related workers in metal/mineral products processing
Other technical occupations in health care (except dental) Machine operators & related workers in pulp & paper production & wood processing
Psychologists, social workers, counsellors, clergy and probation officers
Supervisors, mining, oil and gas  
Underground miners, oil and gas drillers and related workers  
Supervisors in manufacturing  
Supervisors, processing occupations  

The complete CIBC World Markets report is available at:

CIBC's wholesale banking business provides a range of integrated credit and capital markets products, investment banking, and merchant banking to clients in key financial markets in North America and around the world. We provide innovative capital solutions and advisory expertise across a wide range of industries as well as top-ranked research for our corporate, government and institutional clients.




For further information:

Benjamin Tal, Deputy Chief Economist, CIBC World Markets Inc. at (416) 956-3698, or Kevin Dove, Communications and Public Affairs at 416-980-8835,


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