An estimated 322,000 private sector jobs were awaiting qualified employees in Q3, finds a report from CFIB. The nationwide openings in full-, part-time and temporary positions were up by 7,000 compared to Q2 2014 — the largest quarterly increase in the past two years.

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“As the unemployment rate goes down, the job vacancy rate goes up,” says Ted Mallett, CFIB’s chief economist and vice-president. “A tightening labour market means that employers have a harder time finding the qualified employees they need; especially small businesses. Generally, businesses with fewer than 20 employees are reporting vacancy rates more than double that of businesses employing 50 or more.”

On a seasonally adjusted basis, 2.7% of jobs lay vacant in Canada’s private sector, a tenth of a point higher than in the second quarter. Modest increases were seen in most business size categories.

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In the past five years, the vacancy rate has climbed from a low of 1.7% in late 2009 and early 2010, rising to 2.6% by 2012. The rate of private sector job vacancies topped out at 3% through late 2007 and early 2008.

“By drilling down to Census Divisions within provinces, we found the lowest vacancy rates were in Ontario’s Renfrew County, and Nova Scotia’s Colchester and Hants Counties, at barely 1%,” says Mallett. “On the other hand, job vacancy rates about six-times as high were found in Wainwright, Lloydminster, Claresholm and Cold Lake in Alberta.”

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Just more than half of all the vacancies were in small businesses, currently employing fewer than 50 people. About one-in-five vacancies were in mid-sized firms, while almost one-in-four were in large enterprises with employment above 500.

There were fractional increases in unfilled jobs in oil and gas, manufacturing, transportation and financial services. Offsetting those were modestly fewer vacancies in agriculture, wholesale trade, business services and hospitality.

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