The latest edition of the Help Wanted Index from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) shows Canada’s labour shortage reaching a record high for the fifth straight quarter in a row, this is despite a record number of international students, immigrants and refugees flow into the country.
There were 433,000 jobs sitting unfilled for 90 days or more in the third quarter of this year, up by 15,000 from the same time a year earlier.
The most acute labour shortages were to be found in construction, and in a broad category known as “personal services,” which includes such activities like hair styling, dry cleaning, personal fitness training, funeral homes, pet care and credit protection services. It also includes things like astrologers and psychics, singing telegrams and even escort services.
What construction and these personal services industries have in common is that there are many small businesses among them, and it is small businesses that are having the hardest time finding workers, said Ted Mallett, vice-president and chief economist at the CFIB.
Business with four or fewer employees have a vacancy rate of 5.4 per cent, meaning nearly one in 18 jobs are unfilled.
But finding the right person for a small business isn’t always easy.
The kind of person they need may be quite important. They need a skill set that can instantly fit in. That’s a tougher ask than a large firm with 200 employees where when you lose one person, you can afford to bring in someone without the exact same skills and train this person.
Broken down by province, Quebec had the largest labour shortage in the second quarter, with one in 25 (4 per cent) of all private sector jobs unfilled.
After decades of economic uncertainty, the province’s economy is booming, and businesses are grappling with previously unfamiliar problems.
Unlike the resource industry in Western Canada, Quebec businesses have little experience addressing a labour shortage, “so they’ve had to learn those processes and skills,” Mallett added.
To help with the shortage, policymakers should focus on things that would “create a more nimble workforce, capable of re-learning quickly,” and help workers “move to where the opportunities are,” he suggested.
But the problem is that most of the immigrants and international students are hoping to fill white collar jobs and have very little experience or interest in the trades. And there is every indication to suggest that the jobs that go unfilled happen to be mostly in the trades. -CINEWS