CIMM - Opening statement by the Director General - Labour Market, Education and Socioeconomic Well-being Statistics Branch - Mar 10, 2021

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Statistics Canada for the appearance of Statistics Canada/ESDC/IRCC before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) to contribute to their study on the Labour Market Impact Assessment under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program - March 10, 2021

Madam Chair, Committee members, thank you for the opportunity today to share some key observations about the Canadian labour market, and more particularly, the changing labour needs in Canada since the beginning of the pandemic.

The main source of information available at Statistics Canada to measure labour demand in detail is the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey.

Since October, Statistics Canada has been releasing new monthly indicators on unmet labour demand to provide a timelier picture of employers’ recruitment efforts. For example, in December, there were 478,000 vacant positions in Canada.

A more detailed analysis of quarterly job vacancies, including by occupation and subprovincial geography, will be released on March 23, 2021, on the Statistics Canada website.

When we look at these data, we see that last fall, the job vacancy rate, or the number of vacant jobs as a proportion of all vacant and occupied jobs, was about the same as before the pandemic. The vacancy rate was 3.0% in December, following 3.3% in November, and 3.5% in October, based on our seasonally unadjusted data.

Since October, above-average job vacancy rates have been observed both in sectors where employment has been less affected by COVID-19, such as health care and social assistance and professional, scientific and technical services, and in sectors that have been more affected, such as administrative and support services, and accommodation and food services.

A high job vacancy rate could represent either an increased pace of recruiting, or difficulty on the part of employers in finding and retaining suitable candidates.

The agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector, which employs a high number of temporary foreign workers, posted the highest job vacancy rate in October with 5.7%, but it fell by half the following month (2.8%). In December, the job vacancy rate in this sector was 4.2%. The number of job vacancies in this sector can vary greatly depending on seasonal trends.

Provincially, British Columbia and Quebec have consistently had the highest job vacancy rates since October 2020; these provinces also had some of the highest vacancy rates prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. From October to December, job vacancy rates were among the lowest in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Job vacancy rates in these provinces also tended to be among the lowest before the pandemic.

I would now like to provide a brief overview of the composition of temporary foreign workers and immigration.

Temporary foreign workers have played an increasingly important role in the Canadian labour market in recent years. Nearly 470,000 foreign nationals had a work permit that came into effect in 2019, up sharply from the 340,000 foreign nationals whose permits came into effect in 2017.

In 2017, there were approximately 550,000 temporary foreign workers in Canada, representing 2.9% of the total number of people employed. Although this percentage was relatively low for the economy as a whole, it was particularly high in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, where it accounted for 15.5% of employment.

In contrast, the percentage of temporary foreign workers in other goods-producing sectors was generally low, representing 1.0% of employment in mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction, and 1.7% in manufacturing. In service-producing sectors, the highest proportion of temporary foreign workers was observed in accommodation and food services (7.2%).

Looking at immigration more broadly, immigration levels followed an upward trend from 2016 to 2019, with 8 of every 10 people being added to the Canadian population being immigrants or non-permanent residents. In 2018 and 2019, the majority of employment growth was attributable to immigrants. However, immigration levels fell sharply in 2020 due to the pandemic and travel restrictions.

Our projections suggest that by 2030, Canada's population growth could come exclusively from immigration.

This concludes my presentation, Madam Chair.

I would be more than happy to answer your questions.

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