Labour shortages persist: StatsCan

By James Langton | October 28, 2021 | Last updated on October 28, 2021
2 min read
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Job vacancies remained high at the start of the fall season, particularly in sectors heavily affected by the pandemic, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada.

Industries that suffered the most from public health restrictions, such as accommodation, food service, and recreation, are facing high vacancy rates — as are sectors that have seen higher demand due to the pandemic, like healthcare and tech.

StatsCan reported that job vacancies in professional, scientific and technical services, which includes computer and information systems professionals, hit an all-time high in August (61,100) — up 66% from the same time in 2019.

The healthcare sector also faced a labour shortage, with 121,300 vacancies in August, nearly double its level in 2019.

StatsCan reported that vacancies for registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses increased the most in the second quarter of 2021, compared with two years earlier.

“While high job vacancies can be an indicator of growing employment, they can also be a signal of high turnover, labour shortages or mismatches between the characteristics of vacant positions and those of available workers,” the national statistical agency said.

In August, the overall job vacancy rate came in at 5.2%, up from 4.9% in June and 3.0% at the start of the year. In total, there were an estimated 871,600 unfilled jobs in the month.

Alongside sectors that are seeing shortages due to growing demand, industries that have been hit hard by public health restrictions also are short of workers, the data suggested.

In the accommodation and food services sector, for example, an estimated 156,800 jobs went unfilled in August. The sector’s 12.3% vacancy rate represented an all-time high, and employment in the sector remained 16.5% below its pre-pandemic level, StatsCan said.

“This was likely the result of several factors, including staffing challenges associated with the resumption of business activity in the sector. In addition, the increase in vacancies was likely due in part to seasonal patterns, as labour demand in the sector typically peaks during the summer, and declines in autumn,” StatsCan said.

Overall, payroll employment increased by 59,700 (0.4%) in August, the agency noted, in part “driven by gains in the services-producing sector in Ontario and Québec.”

Average weekly earnings were also up 0.7% in August. And, while average hours worked were down 0.3% from July, workers were still putting in 1.2% more time than they did pre-pandemic.

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James Langton

James is a senior reporter for and its sister publication, Investment Executive. He has been reporting on regulation, securities law, industry news and more since 1994.