Canada added 154,000 workers last month, as ‘war for talent’ gives job seekers the upper hand | CBC News

The Canadian economy added 154,000 new jobs last month, exceeding previous expectations and enough to move the unemployment rate to just 6 percent.

Statistics Canada reported on Friday that the unemployment rate fell by 0.7 percentage points, to six percent. This is the lowest unemployment rate since the pandemic began.

Prior to COVID-19, in February 2020, the unemployment rate in Canada was 5.7 percent. It topped out at 13.7 percent in May of that year, before dropping steadily.

The data agency calculates that more than 19.3 million people in Canada worked last month. That’s 183,000 more than it was before one pandemic.

As wages go up

There was good news on the wage front, too, with the data agency estimating that wages during November 2021 were 7.7 percent higher than they were in the same month two years ago, before the pandemic. That’s an extra $2.18 an hour, on average, since the same period two years ago.

Workers in general move up the wage ladder. The number of people earning less than $12 an hour has fallen dramatically over the past two years, from more than a quarter of a million people to just 165,000 people today. There are also fewer people earning between $12 and $20 an hour, down from 5.1 million workers to 4.4 million now.

These salary ranges are shrinking as people move up the wage ladder. The number of people making between $20 and $30 an hour grew from 4.9 million to 5.2 million, and the number of people in the highest category swelled to more than 6.8 million. That’s more than a million more than it was two years ago.

While higher wages are good for workers, they are a double-edged sword, with the cost of living rising rapidly as well. These higher salaries are tempered by the fact that Statistics Canada data shows prices are 5.3 per cent higher than they were two years ago.

People are heading into the workforce in droves because they need the money to pay the higher cost of everything, said Tanya Jolison, chief revenue officer at HR consultancy LHH.

“We are still witnessing a huge war for talent,” she said in an interview. “We find that employers have to do really unexpected things to attract and retain the talent they have.”

The companies that win that war are those that are able to attract the best workers by offering flexible work requirements and good benefits and other perks, Gollison said.

Watch | Recruitment expert says flexible working is here to stay, even after COVID-19:

Recruitment expert says working from home is now the ‘new normal’

Tania Jolison of human resources consultancy LHH says companies that insist on having everyone in the office five days a week will be left behind in the job market, even after the pandemic is over. 1:14

But cold and hard criticism also tempts people. Statistics Canada data says average wage earnings are increasing at a faster rate for new hires than for existing workers.

“Over the course of the upcoming fiscal year, bonuses and other perks will likely also flow in as a way to attract new talent and retain existing employees,” Jolison said.

Jason Murray, president of recruitment firm BIPOC Executive Search, says that while companies are more optimistic about the recovery, they are also concerned “about whether or not they will be able to compete in a talent-hunting market at the same time,” he said in an interview.

He says companies are innovating everything they can — flexible hours, more vacation time, bonuses — to get the right worker for their needs. “There are all kinds of interesting and innovative ways that employers try to motivate the people they choose.”

Decreased long-term unemployment

Deep in the pandemic, policymakers have warned of a growing group of “long-term unemployed”, defined by Statistics Canada as people who have lost a job and have not found a new one for at least 27 weeks.

There were about 185,000 Canadians in this category before the pandemic, or about 15 percent of everyone without a job.

That number rose to 510,000 people by April of this year, or nearly a third of those who were unemployed.

The number has fallen steadily since then, but in November it saw its biggest drop since the pandemic began, dropping by 62,000 to 305,000.

A new beginning for many

After losing her financial job in December 2020, Erica Albert took some time to re-evaluate what she wanted in her career. She says she found the perfect job when she was hired at a renewable energy company near her home in Guelph, Ont., in November. (Keith Burgess/CBC)

Erica Albert is one of the many Canadians who managed to find a job last month after a long time on the sidelines.

She lost her finance job in December 2020 and took a long break to “re-evaluate what I want to do at this point in my career”.

After spending most of the year trying to find the perfect job, Albert says she finally found it this month, when she was hired as an office manager at Guelph, Ontario, an engineering firm that specializes in renewable energy.

“I have learned a lot of things in my career up to this point, [and] I really enjoy doing something that actually includes a little bit of everything I’ve learned,” she said in an interview.

“I am well relaxed now and excited to be part of the team and work towards making the world a better place.”

Albert is not the only one feeling this optimism.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, there is a spike in labor demand and a new feeling among workers that they can be more picky than they might be, says Tu Nguyen, an economist at consultancy RSM Canada.

“The rising tide of economic recovery is finally lifting everyone up across demographic groups, across industries, across company sizes and across counties,” she said in an interview. “The next few months will be very competitive.”

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