CALGARY — Alberta has the highest job vacancy rate in the country, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and that is translating into close to 55,000 unfilled private sector jobs.
The CFIB said Tuesday that as Canada’s labour markets continue to recover from the 2008-2009 recession, the percentage of unfilled private sector jobs increased slightly from 2.3 per cent in the second quarter to 2.4 per cent in the July-to-September period.
The latest 2.4 per cent vacancy rate is equivalent to about 275,900 full- and part-time private sector jobs, said the CFIB. Canada’s construction industry has the country’s highest sectoral vacancy rate (3.7 per cent), although hospitality (2.9), agriculture, forestry and fishing (2.8), oil, gas and mining (2.8) and professional services (2.7) are also high.
Alberta and Saskatchewan have the highest vacancy rates (3.6 per cent each), while Newfoundland and Labrador (2.8) is also above the national average. Quebec (2.4), Prince Edward Island (2.2), Ontario (2.1), Manitoba (2.1), British Columbia (2.1), Nova Scotia (1.9) and New Brunswick (1.8) either match, or fall short of the overall rate.
“The smallest firms have the highest job vacancy rate and are being hit the hardest by labour and skills shortages,” said Richard Truscott, Alberta Director for CFIB. “The considerably higher rate in Alberta also clearly refutes the assertion by some labour leaders that there isn’t a shortage of qualified labour in our province.”
He said the issue may be with the province for some time to come considering Alberta’s forecast economic growth combined with its aging population.
“With the oilsands in particular coming on stream more and more with every passing year, the draw of people from every other sector into the oil and gas sector is going to become stronger and stronger and making it more and more difficult for employers in other parts of the economy to find qualified people,” added Truscott.
Tarpon Energy Services Ltd., a leading supplier of electrical and instrumentation services, control systems and steel building solutions, is one of those companies finding it difficult these days to locate skilled labour.
Julie Sullivan, manager of human resources for Tarpon, said the company has done initiatives and advertising across Canada with a focus domestically first.
The recruitment strategy for the past 10 months to a year has taken a shift to the temporary foreign worker.
“We’ve been going out and going across the world trying to find out where the right markets are and where the pools of individuals are who have the trade skill levels that we require in Alberta for certified trades people,” said Sullivan.
The company has 40 locations across Western Canada, the United States and internationally. There are currently 1,450 Canadian employees and about 800 are skilled trades including electricians, instrumentation technicians, structural welders and structural fitters.
The company went to Ireland and Scotland in October as part of Calgary Economic Development’s initiative to attract workers to the city.
“We have probably about 50 electricians in queue to start making it across to Canada in the next quarter,” said Sullivan, adding that the company is also keeping its focus on the domestic market.
“We’re focused on growth. In order for us to grow our business, we anticipate that we’re going to need to double our trade workforce in the next couple of years . . . We’re doing what we can on the domestic (front), turning over every rock.”
Ben Brunnen, chief economist with the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, said the vacancy numbers are consistent with the strong economic growth the province is experiencing.
“If the global economy remains stable, labour shortages are going to be the single greatest impediment to economic growth confronting Alberta. These vacancy numbers demonstrate that,” said Brunnen.
“It’s very possible that we’re right at a peak level of vacancy rates for the province … The global economy is at its highest risk of going into a recession since four years and we’ve seen some of the investment numbers for Alberta stabilize a little bit. However, we also are seeing the greatest period of net interprovincial migration since 2006. So that means people are coming to fill the job vacancies. We might see a bit of a plateau in terms of the total jobs created right now. So hopefully we’ll see a bit of an alleviation in the next few months of the labour shortage in Alberta.”
But if the global economy remains relatively stable and the United States economic picture is strong, the labour challenge could persist for Alberta employers, added Brunnen.
Ken Vinge, vice-president of corporate development at Bowen Workforce Solutions, said the company has seen a rise in demand for skilled people in the last three to four months.
“What’s interesting is that these are permanent positions. Not your typical temporary or contract positions although we’re seeing an increase in those as well,” said Vinge. “It tells us, we think, that businesses are feeling pretty positive going into 2013.”
He said operations support for the oil and gas industry is a particularly challenging area to find skilled labour including business analysts, purchasing people, engineers, mid-level to senior level managers.
The overall vacancy rate in Canada has risen from 1.7 per cent at the end of 2009, although it’s still down from where it was before the recession, added the CFIB.
“Job vacancies have increased at the same pace as the economy has grown,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB’s chief economist and vice-president. “The small gain in vacancies observed in the third quarter mirrors the slow growth in GDP.“Smaller businesses cope with the highest average unfilled job rates. That’s a problem because labour shortages proportionately pose much greater management challenges to the owners and managers of small businesses than to larger firms.”
Job vacancies are defined as openings that have been vacant for at least four months because business owners have been unable to find suitable employees. The third quarter findings are based on 2,518 responses, collected from a stratified random sample of CFIB members, to a controlled-access web survey. The series is based on 72,012 responses going back to 2004.
NOVEMBER 13, 2012