November job stats show steep decline

December 5, 2008 - Statistics Canada released its November 2008 Labour Force survey today, noting there was, “a slower pace of growth (0.8 per cent) compared with the 2.2 per cent observed during the same period in 2007.” This was echoed by a declining number of online job postings, which dropped by 70,200 in the U.S., with similar echoes in Canada, notes Workopolis president, Patrick Sullivan.

The decline in employment was concentrated in Ontario, which lost 66,000 full-time jobs, and Nova Scotia, down 4,400. Yet, employment remained relatively steady in the other Canadian provinces.

Not unexpectedly, most of the job losses were in the manufacturing sector, with a net drop of 38,000, says StatsCan. “In Ontario, the employment declines in this sector totalled 42,000 in November,” it notes in its survey summary.

Other industries with employment decreases in November were transportation and warehousing; educational services; and agriculture, according to StatsCan. The survey reveals that  employment gained ground in health care and social assistance; and in professional, scientific and technical services. Employment declines were spread out across most demographic groups, with the largest decreases among adult men and youth.

Sullivan notes that Workopolis job postings data confirms declines in the manufacturing sector. However, he says he was surprised by posting declines in the technology sector across the job boards as well. This may be short-term due to spending budgets being exhausted as the year-end approaches.

Despite the job losses and influx of workers into the job market, however, Sullivan warns employers not to get too comfortable about the availability of workers. “This is not an employer’s market in the long-term,” he warns.

What’s happening in the labour force “is a blip,” says Sullivan and employers shouldn’t panic. Overall, he notes, the unemployment rate has risen to only 6.3 per cent from 6.2 per cent since last month. And, although the Ontario numbers are poor, many of the other provinces experienced little change. Moreover, he says, the long-term issues affecting recruitment are still a factor.

“We still have an aging population,” he says. “While some baby boomers will continue to work after 65, there’s little doubt that many with defined retirement plans, such as government workers, will leave the job force in the next few years. There are still not enough younger workers coming up behind to fill their places.”
Sullivan also notes that there is an ongoing lack of talent at certain levels throughout organizations and recruitment must be ongoing. In fact, many organizations will find the current situation could work to their benefit.

“There are many ‘A’ workers out there, so employers should keep their eyes open and not let them pass by,” he says. “This may mean that to keep its team stocked, an organization may need to examine and reorganize its workforce to make spots for new talent.”

Sullivan suggests even during a downturn, recruitment should continue. “Even if you don’t have positions right now, continue to collect resumes and keep communicating to those you might want to hire at a later date.”