Labor shortages: Canadian industries need workers


TORONTO – The economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are preventing businesses from finding workers as labor shortages continue to block some sectors.

Businesses large and small say they are struggling to find staff and employers are offering more incentives to attract workers, such as higher wages, bonuses and flexible hours.

However, for industries trying to recoup losses after months of foreclosure, Jasmin Guenette of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says benefits may not be an option.

“Only 40 percent of small businesses are making normal sales at the moment. So raising wages isn’t possible for many businesses,” Guenette told CTV News.

A new study released last week by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) reports that 64 percent of Canadian businesses say labor shortages are limiting their growth.

According to Statistics Canada, there were 731,900 job vacancies in the second quarter of 2021. StatCan said these vacancies can be seen in all provinces, with the largest increases in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.

Overall, Deloitte Canada says 30.3 percent of Canadian businesses report labor shortages.

Trevin Stratton, Business Advisory Leader and Partner at Deloitte Canada, told that industries that have been able to shift to a work-from-home model, such as finance, insurance and real estate, have experienced “substantial growth. of employment ”throughout the pandemic.

“On the other hand, hard-hit sectors that depend on physical presence, such as accommodation and food services, transport, recreation and tourism, still have some way to go before they fully recover from the crisis. pandemic, ”Stratton said in an email Tuesday. .

Stratton explained that the easing of public health measures in recent months has allowed these sectors to significantly increase their employment, but that further gains could be “limited by the unavailability of labor.”

While many industries have struggled to return to regular work capacity amid COVID-19, data shows these industries have the highest number of job vacancies in Canada:


As one of the sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, Deloitte Canada predicts that the labor shortages facing the hotel and restaurant industry will not be over. anytime soon.

“We expect employment in accommodation and food services and information, culture and recreation to continue to experience substantial growth in 2022, but remain below pre-pandemic levels for a period of time. some time, ”Stratton said.

According to Statistics Canada data, the number of vacant positions in hospitality and food services increased by 11,600 from the second quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2021, reaching an all-time high of 89,100.

According to StatCan, this increase was “entirely” in the food services and drinking places sub-sector. The agency added that food counter attendants, kitchen helpers and related support staff recorded the second-largest increase in the number of job vacancies for all occupations in the two years in Canada.

The general manager of Romeo’s Italian restaurant in Victoria, British Columbia, says Canadians have less incentive to return to waiting tables full-time when they can instead collect benefits in the event of a pandemic.

“They say they can only work a limited number of hours because they know that if they go over a certain number of hours, they cannot receive downstream subsidies,” Christopher Mavrikos told CTV News in September.

However, the BDC report suggests that phasing out the Canada Emergency Benefit and other programs like this will not solve the workforce problem.

While some sectors lost thousands of jobs during the pandemic, BDC chief economist Pierre Cleroux says the pandemic did not create Canada’s labor shortage – it did makes an existing problem worse. He said the key issue is demographics.

“Today, 16 percent of Canadians are over 65. Over the next five years, many Canadians will retire,” said Cleroux. “And few young people are entering the workforce.”


As the pandemic has increased demand for healthcare services, many nurses say they left the profession after stress from COVID-19 made their jobs more difficult and less safe, creating a shortage of healthcare workers in some areas and even forcing rural areas to temporarily close hospital units.

According to Statistics Canada, health care and social assistance are currently in the greatest need of labor of any sector in the country.

Job vacancies in this industry increased by 40,800 between the second quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2021, according to StatCan. The agency said the industry currently accounts for one in seven job vacancies in Canada.

Vacancies for registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses saw the largest increase of any health care profession since 2019, according to StatCan. The agency notes that nearly half of the vacancies for this occupation have been open for 90 days or more.

While there are no firm numbers yet, there are reports that the pandemic has increased burnout among highly skilled nurses, forcing them to leave the profession at an alarming rate. Others have chosen to retire early due to stress.

Health advocates say keeping qualified nurses with better staffing and more mental health support could help solve the problem, as well as end wage cuts and caps in the profession with campaigns underway in Ontario and Alberta against efforts to limit public sector wage increases.


Statistics Canada reported a record number of job vacancies in the manufacturing sector last month.

The agency says there were 65,900 vacant positions in the manufacturing sector in the second quarter of 2021, the highest number of vacancies for the sector since 2015. The increase was spread across several sub-sectors, with the largest gains in food manufacturing, such as meat packaging and wood products. manufacturing, according to StatCan.

The Canadian Meat Council – which represents registered slaughterhouses and meat processing plants in Canada – reported in September that there were more than 4,000 empty butcher stations at meat production facilities across of the country, which corresponds to an average vacancy rate of more than 10 per cent.

Canadian meat packers say the shortage is in part due to rules governing the number of temporary foreign workers that meat processing employers can employ at any time and are lobbying the federal government to increase the current cap by 10 at 20 percent, depending on the installation, at 30 percent.

The construction industry also reported a record number of job vacancies, especially in masonry, painting and electrical work.

According to StatCan, the number of construction vacancies rose to 62,600 in the second quarter of 2021, the highest number since 2015. Carpenters, construction trades helpers and laborers also accounted for a large portion of the workforce. rising vacancies, the agency said.


Job vacancies in retail rose to 84,300 in the second quarter of 2021, according to StatCan, with the largest increases in food and beverage stores, building supply dealers and equipment stores. garden.

By occupation, the agency said retail salespeople, window dressers, clerks and order pickers were among the top 10 occupations with the largest increase in job vacancies from the second quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2021. .

With “help wanted” signs in many storefronts across the country, Charles Kay, owner of Montreal furniture store Prunelle, says the responsibility lies with the employer.

“Some employers are a little burned out because there just isn’t… enough hand to do the job,” he told CTV News.


Trucking HR Canada, a national nonprofit that works to address workforce issues in the trucking and logistics industry, reports that there were an average of 18,000 truck driver positions vacant in the second quarter of 2021.

According to its latest report, the trucking industry had a vacancy rate of five percent at the end of 2020. By comparison, the vacancy rate for all occupations in Canada was 2.7 percent.

The organization says the impacts of COVID-19, the lack of foreign workers and poor working conditions have all contributed to the increase in job vacancies. Additionally, Trucking HR Canada says these factors have contributed to the retirement of older truckers and an increase in the number of new drivers to replace them.

Trucking HR Canada noted that the truck driver shortage will continue to put “pressure and stress on Canada’s economic recovery” if not quickly addressed.

“Trucking and logistics support key economic sectors, from retail / wholesale to construction, agriculture, forestry and mining, and more,” the organization wrote in its report. “One fact remains: the longer it takes to better address driver shortages, the longer it will take for a full economic recovery. “

With files from The Canadian Press and Vanessa Lee of CTV National News


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