Employment Outlook: Canada

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By Mary Anne Thompson, Founder and President, GoinGlobal, Inc.

To sustain its growing, healthy economy, Canada looks toward a growing immigrant workforce and expats to take up the slack for its skills shortages, aging population and declining birthrate.

Canada is a wealthy, high-tech, industrialized society with plentiful natural resources and a highly skilled work force. Its economy is strongly linked to that of the US, which receives 75% of Canadian exports, making Canadian markets vulnerable to the economic fluctuations of its southern neighbor. Despite some unrest with the US/Canada relationship over the past couple of years, the economic outlook for Canada this year is positive, with both exports and investments on the rise, which is good for the job market.

Canada has one of the highest immigration rates among OECD countries. In fact, immigrants have accounted for nearly 90% of the country’s labor force growth over the past few years. Because of Canada’s aging population and declining birthrate, its working age population is not growing. In response, the government has set a goal of accepting 1 million immigrants by the end 2021.

Canada’s new immigration system Express Entry (English, French) expedites the process of bringing in foreign workers with skills in short supply in Canada. Jobseekers fill out an online form that then matches them with available job openings. In addition, each Canadian province and territory has its own Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) (English, French), which allows provincial officials to nominate workers interested in settling in a particular area. In addition, the recently reopened Parents and Grandparents program allows Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor parents and grandparents to receive permanent residence status in the country.

Employment Outlook

Overall employment grew by 2% over the past year. There were increases in both full and part-time jobs. The current unemployment rate is 5.8%. However, Canada’s unemployment rate for workers aged between 15 and 24 is a high 10.8%.

Business confidence remains high, according to the most recent Business Outlook Survey by the Bank of Canada. Companies also report positive hiring intentions, especially companies in the services industries. More and more firms are enlisting managed services providers or outside consultants to tackle large projects or those projects requiring specialized knowledge.

Short Term

Canada’s job vacancy rate hit a record high last year, with just under 550,000 job openings. The greatest number of job vacancies is currently in the provinces of Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. Manpower’s employer survey reports a positive hiring outlook for the near future, with 16% of employers planning to hire and 80% of employers expecting to make no changes to current staffing levels, leaving only 4% unsure of hiring plans.

A recent Hays survey of employers found that 52% expected to increase permanent staff hiring this year, and 58% planned to increase hiring of temporary staff. Employers in British Columbia and Ontario are predicted to do the most hiring.

Long Term

The International Monetary Fund expects the unemployment rate to hover at around 6.2% this year into next, and then to slowly climb to 6.5% by 2023. By 2026, the Canadian government predicts that the labor market will generate a total of 1.8 million new jobs. A quarter of the Canadian population will be aged 65 and over by 2035, when it is estimated that immigrants will account for 100% of population growth. It is predicted that Canada will need 350,000 immigrant workers per year by 2035 to meet its labor needs.

By Sector

Over the past year, the private sector has added 319,000 new jobs – an annual increase of 2.7%. However, the public sector has seen an increase of only 0.7% in employment. Employment has risen the most in professional, scientific and technical services (+6.8%) and public administration (+3.6%) according to Statistics Canada. Other industries have seen little significant change.

ManpowerGroup reports that employers in all ten industry sectors plan on adding jobs over the next few months. The transportation and public utilities sector has the strongest hiring plans, followed by public administration and manufacturing. The weakest hiring outlook is in construction.

By Region

British Columbia (BC), Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan currently have the lowest unemployment rates. BC and Saskatchewan also saw the highest rates of job growth in the country over the past year. Job growth in Quebec has remained flat, but New Brunswick was the only province that actually saw a decline in employment over the past 12 months.

Areas of Job Promise

The job market looks good for most industries into the near future.

Top 25 Occupations Expected to See the Highest Growth and Salaries

  1. Utilities manager
  2. Engineering manager
  3. Pipefitting supervisor
  4. Pharmacist
  5. Public administration director
  6. Health care manager
  7. Business executive
  8. Banking and credit manager
  9. Veterinarian
  10. Marketing and public relations manager
  11. Air traffic controller
  12. Statistician or actuary
  13. Dentist
  14. Pilot and flying instructor
  15. Audiologist and speech language pathologist
  16. Telecommunications manager
  17. Mining and quarrying supervisor
  18. Specialized engineer (agriculture, textile, biomedicine, etc.)
  19. Computer systems manager
  20. Construction manager
  21. Aerospace engineer
  22. Economic development director
  23. Software engineer
  24. Head nurse and medical supervisor
  25. Scientific research manager

Source: Canadian Business

Talent Shortages

It has been estimated that 5 million Canadians will retire by 2035, creating a significant gap in the workforce.

Hays reports that 82% of surveyed employers are suffering from a skills shortage. Thirty-one percent of employers attribute their hiring difficulties to fewer workers entering the job market in their industry. This is especially true for the construction, manufacturing and logistics, and procurement sectors. Another quarter cite a lack of candidates with the right training and skills.

By Sector

The following sectors report the strongest hiring intentions for permanent and temporary workers this year, according to a recent survey by recruitment firm Hays.

Sector Percentage of employers reporting plans to hire permanent staff Percentage of employers reporting plans to hire temporary staff
Office professionals 77% 40%
Architecture and interior design 65% 25%
Legal 65% 21%
Sales and marketing 52% 48%
Construction 52% 28%
Human resources 52% 24%
Manufacturing and logistics 50% 24%
Accounting and finance 48% 23%
IT/ Telecommunications 45% 13%
Resources and mining 36% 23%

Source: Hays

Industry Sectors Expected to Add the Most New Jobs Annually Through 2026

  • Health care
  • Construction
  • Food services
  • Management, administrative and other support services
  • Elementary and secondary schools
  • Legal, accounting, consulting and other professional services
  • Computer systems design and related services
  • Social assistance
  • Finance, insurance, real estate and leasing services
  • Retail trade, architectural, engineering, design and scientific R&D services

Skills in Demand

Selection factors under the revised immigration program include one’s age, level of education, work experience, the presence of a valid job offer and the likelihood of the candidate to settle permanently in Canada. Employers may also prefer skills such as English-French bilingualism, and local diplomas or certificates.

‘Canadian experience’

For newcomers, the all-important ‘Canadian experience’ can be an obstacle to finding a good job. What ‘Canadian experience’ really means is having the required soft skills that are valued in Canadian society. In fact, 60% of Canadian employers value soft skills over hard skills. Having the required hard, or technical, skills can get a candidate an interview, but only those with the necessary soft skills will likely get the job. Many Canadian employers report difficulty finding the right combination of skilled workers with soft skills. Valued soft skills include:

  • Communication skills (verbal and written)
  • Knowledge of local language (includes learning professional jargon)
  • Presentation skills
  • The ability to make small talk
  • Leadership and initiative (people management, goal setting, problem solving, etc.)
  • Conflict resolution and negotiation
  • Accepting constructive criticism
  • Flexibility
  • Business etiquette (hand shaking, making eye contact, etc.)

Newcomers should learn Canadian social etiquette, be aware of Canada’s cultural diversity and engage in cross-cultural communication. A Robert Half survey reports that 90% of managers say that a candidate’s fit into a company’s culture is just as or more important than work experience or skills.

A great way to learn Canadian workplace etiquette is by volunteering. For more information, see this guide’s section on Non-Profits and Volunteer Organizations. In Quebec, the Canadian Practice Firms Network (CPFN) (English, French) offers newcomers the opportunity to practice doing a job (and thus getting experience) within a simulated environment.


Canada has opened its doors and arms to many immigrants over the past several years, and it has done a good job of integrating them into the workforce, a workforce that will come to rely on them more and more over the coming years. As Canada deals with an aging population, a declining birthrate and skills shortages, it must look now, more than ever before, toward its newest inhabitants and willing expats to take up the slack in its labor market.