For the past two years, Canadian companies have bemoaned the lack of available workers. But now the issue increasingly on the minds of corporate managers is too many workers.
The number of earnings calls where some variant of “labour shortages” was mentioned surged starting in early 2021 and has remained well above historical levels, according to financial data platform Sentieo Inc. But talk about worker shortages dropped sharply in the first quarter of the year, and has continued to fall in the months since.
That pattern roughly matches job vacancies in Canada, which peaked the middle of last year and are now falling, thanks in part to rapid population growth. “The supply of workers has been boosted, enabling firms to put a big dent in the number of job vacancies,” TD senior economist James Orlando wrote in a recent note.
Now another matter is gaining steam on corporate calls: layoffs.
Not all executives discussing layoffs on calls have been talking about cutbacks at their companies. In many cases, the topic was mass layoffs in the tech sector, though that still reflects uncertainty about a potential slowdown. As Stewart Schaefer, chief executive of Sleep Country Canada Holdings Inc., said on the company’s latest conference call, unemployment has never been lower. But “obviously, that’s changing day to day with a lot of the corporate layoffs,” he added.
Many companies have been cutting back, whether that’s Shopify Inc., with its 20-per-cent “reduction in force,” Spin Master Corp., with its “global workforce reduction” or Canfor Corp., with its “rightsizing initiative.”
What’s yet to be seen is whether all the layoff talk is enough to derail Canada’s gloom-defying job market.