Chances of Finding Employment in Ontario Remained Slim in February

In early February, we released the Vicinity Jobs monthly hiring index reports and expressed cautious optimism that Ontario’s job market may have bottomed already (read article). Unfortunately, the February numbers (which we just released) dashed our hopes.

If you were looking for work in February and you were disappointed with the number of jobs you were finding or the responses you were getting, the problem was not on your end. The following graph shows why:

Job postings by month

The year-over-year gap between the number of new job postings published this vs. last February widened to an unprecedented 49.3%. This makes February arguably the worst month for job seekers since the recession began, after adjustments for seasonal variations.

Another worrying trend is that the share of advertised part-time jobs doubled to 12.6% in February 09 compared to 6.7% a year ago:

Full-time vs Part-time jobs

Another report released by Statistics Canada on February 13 (found here) also indicates that part-time employment increased in February, and all declines were in full-time jobs. Since the Vicinity Jobs report lists jobs that are advertised but not yet filled (will be filled in the near future), while Statistics Canada reports on jobs that were filled, Ontario’s economy will likely continue replacing full-time with part-time jobs for a while.

Contrary to popular belief, however, we did not find the share of temporary/contract jobs to be increasing. In fact, it declined slightly from 33.8% to 32.2% of all postings indicating if a position is permanent or not.

Other interesting facts that the Vicinity Jobs highlighted are:

  • Measured by industry, Retail Trade accounted for the biggest share of postings both last year and this year (18% this year, compared to 20% last year).
  • The share of the Manufacturing industry declined dramatically from 12% to only 6%, indicating that job losses in manufacturing may be about to increase in the future.
  • Industries that did better than average were healthcare (10% last year to 15% this year), wholesale trade (5% last year to 7% this year), education and services (2% last year to 4% this year), and public administration (4% last year to 6% this year).

The report from Statistics Canada indicates that in February, Ontario lost 35,300 jobs, and unemployment in the province shot up 0.7 percentage points to 8.7%. This is a huge increase for a single month, and given the lack of new advertised jobs for those who are unemployed, it seems quite likely that we may reach double-digit unemployment rates later this year.

February was a bad month on other economic fronts too: The major US stock market indexes fell to a 12-year low, while TSX – the major Canadian stock price index – fell “only” to a new 6-years low. These declines have a significant impact on the employment picture, as they indicate that it is continuing to become more difficult for employers to raise capital to fund business expansions or even ongoing operations – so they have to lay off.

What does this all mean for people looking for work now? We are in the middle of a tough economic storm that is unlike any other recession we have seen in the past several decades. Its impact now seems bound to continue for a while. Be prepared to spend longer time looking for work than you have in the past, and plan your finances and personal life accordingly. Be prepared to invest extra persistence, flexibility, and perhaps even creativity. On the other hand, if you have plans about pursuing continuing education to enhance or change your skills, or if you want and can afford to take some time off for yourself and your loved ones, now may be a perfect time for this.

But most importantly: Stay positive and keep reminding yourself that the current situation is temporary. Economic recessions – no matter how deep – are normal economic occurrences and rarely last more than a couple of years. This one will come to an end too, even if it looks quite scary now. And a positive attitude will remain a must-have attribute required to get and hold on the job you want.

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