Difficult labor shortage in Quebec and Canada

Large employers’ associations have, in unison, appealed for help to the government of Quebec so that it responds urgently to a situation of labor shortage that would reach a state of crisis. The data can speak for itself. Statistics Canada counted 871,600 vacant positions in August, including 219,400 in Quebec. As a proportion of all positions (vacant and occupied), the vacancy rate reached 5.2% across Canada (5.7% in Quebec). Since October 2020, it had previously fluctuated between 3% and 4.9%.

All sectors are affected to varying degrees. The lowest rates are observed in educational services (1.4%) and public services (1.6%), with the exception of health care and social assistance (5.3%). At the other end of the spectrum are the industries directly targeted by the restriction, containment and distancing measures. The vacancy rate reached 12.3% in accommodation and food services, and 6.3% in arts, entertainment and recreation. Average weekly earnings have nevertheless increased by around 11.5% in these industries between the months of August 2020 and 2021, against 2.6% for all sectors, but nothing helps.

Of course, such rates can also be explained by job growth, high staff turnover or a mismatch between the characteristics of the positions to be filled and the workers available. A recent survey, conducted by ADP Canada among small businesses, however, illustrates the distress experienced by these businesses. And the shortage problems would be felt more in Quebec.

It reads that 79% of small businesses that had to downsize during the pandemic were able to rehire employees. But 33% say they have difficulty finding workers. If the phenomenon of scarcity existed before the pandemic, 46% stress that the shortage worsened during the health crisis.

Among those employers citing recruitment difficulties, 46% had to increase wages, 27% increased social benefits and 19% introduced a shorter work week.

“It is small business owners in Quebec who have the most difficulty finding and retaining talent, with 44% of them having difficulty finding workers and 63% finding it more difficult to find and to retain employees before the pandemic, ”continues the human resources consulting firm.

On the aspect of retention, small business owners surveyed report seeing staff leave for better pay (32%), to change careers (29%) or to take on a higher level of responsibility (17%).

The survey was conducted October 7-17 among 772 Canadian small business owners, policy makers and executives. A probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error of +/- 3.5%, 19 times out of 20.

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