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Survey sheds new light on job vacancies

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Congratulations to StatsCan on the occasion of the first release from the National Job Vacancy and Wage Survey, with data for the first quarter of this year. The survey received funding from HRSDC to put some hard numbers on job vacancies, and the first tranche of data are impressively granular, providing detail on vacancies at a detailed occupational level and by economic region as well as by province. (In addition to what is published in the Daily and on CANSIM, StatsCan will provide detailed tables on request.)

If you ever wanted to know how many vacancies there are for accountants or retail clerks in Winnipeg or wherever, this is the place to go. The Survey provides information on how long vacancies have existed, and what wages were offered to fill vacant positions. (The latter data are not yet available.)

Knowledge of job vacancies is essential to good labour market policy. In addition to the information needed to select temporary workers and economic immigrants to fill bona fide shortages of Canadian workers, job vacancy data should guide government training programs and the decisions of individuals regarding fields of study and possible occupational futures.

The data released put some hard numbers on job vacancies for skilled workers, showing that there are a significant number of jobs sitting vacant for three months of more, likely due to lack of enough qualified workers. This seems to be the case for some skilled trades and health occupations among others.

My overall sense, however, is that many vacancies may simply reflect a reluctance on the part of employers to raise wages to fill empty positions. Fully 37 per cent of all vacancies -- 149,9880 out of 400,000 -- are in the lowest paid and least skilled occupational category of sales and service workers. When we have the data it will be interesting to see the wages offered to fill these positions.

And the new data do not suggest significant overall labour shortages. The overall vacancy rate is calculated to be 2.5 per cent, but only one half of the vacancies in the first quarter had been unfilled for more than one month. Our biggest problem by far remains a slack job market.

Photo: digitalpimp./flickr

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