It’s a good time to be a job seeker these days. Help Wanted posters are common, and some employers offer signing bonuses and wages above the provincial minimum for entry-level work.
This is a far cry from the recessions of years past, when jobs were scarce and job hunting was a long and difficult process. In the early 1980s, the unemployment rate in Canada peaked at 12%, and in the early 1990s it reached 12.1%. Much earlier, during the Great Depression, the figure was much higher. In 1933, the unemployment rate in Canada was 30%.
I remember the recession of the early 1980s as I was entering the workforce back then. The youth unemployment rate was significantly higher than the overall rate, and for one summer all I could find were a few odd jobs. What I remember most from that time is how difficult and frustrating it was to look for a job.
Today, we no longer have double digit unemployment rates in Canada. The latest figures from Statistics Canada, released in early April, showed a national unemployment rate of 5.3%, the lowest on record. At the same time, 72,500 jobs were added in Canada.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has affected Canada’s economy, the national unemployment rate was low even before the pandemic began. At the end of 2018 and the start of 2019, Canada’s unemployment rate was at its lowest level since 1976, when Statistics Canada measured these numbers.
The current trend of low unemployment means that it is much easier for job seekers to find work today than in the past, especially during previous economic downturns and recessions. Instead of hoping for a decent offer on the table, it’s more likely that a job seeker will be able to choose from several options.
At the same time, low numbers are not so good for employers. Right now, some companies are facing challenges when trying to hire full staff.
Around me, some companies and service providers have reduced their hours or service levels because they don’t have enough staff to do the job. Others, particularly in tourism and agriculture, are actively working to hire staff for their busy summer season.
Working conditions in Canada, whether good or bad, will not stay the same forever. Economic downturns, recessions and depressions have happened in the past and will happen again in the future. However, the longer the current trend of low unemployment continues, the more likely it is that workplace culture in Canada will change.
Current signing bonuses and higher salaries are part of that change, but other changes could go beyond financial incentives. Other changes could affect the environment in a workplace, with a focus on creating a work culture where people want to stay.
When there is a labor shortage, a job alone will not be enough to attract or retain an employee.
John Arendt is the editor of Summerland Review.