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Canada officially remains a job candidate’s market in a majority of provinces and sectors, according to the latest job vacancy report.

For the fourth consecutive quarter, private-sector job vacancies remained at a record-high 3.2 per cent, according to the Help Wanted report conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB.)

During the second quarter of this year, 429,000 job openings in the country went unfilled for four months or longer, the report said.

Quebec and British Columbia maintained the highest job vacancy rates of any province, with 3.9 per cent each, followed by Ontario at 3.2 per cent. Overall, five provinces saw an increase in vacancies, three saw a dip of .1 per cent each, and Quebec and Nova Scotia’s vacancy rates remained unchanged.

“We’ve seen a stabilization of the vacancies, but it’s still very high; 3.2 per cent is the highest we’ve seen going all the way back to 2004,” explained CFIB’s chief economist and vice-president, Ted Mallett.

He adds that while the higher than average vacancy rate in British Columbia has been building slowly, Quebec’s shot up more rapidly, taking many employers by surprise. “We saw Quebec’s vacancy rates balloon very suddenly after 2016, whereas British Columbia’s has been growing on a straight line basis over the past number of years,” he said.

A high job vacancy rate is good news for employment seekers and employees, and indicates a strong economy overall, but can pose significant challenges to employers.

“They may have to turn business away if they’re unable to produce as much or don’t have enough employees to deal with customers, and they may have difficulty expanding their business or maintaining the level of business they have,” Mr. Mallett said.

The challenge is even more acute for small-business owners, as each individual vacancy represents a larger proportion of the overall work force. In fact, Mr. Mallett says the industries with the highest vacancy rates in Canada are often those with the highest proportion of small players.

The personal services industry had the highest vacancy rate at 4.9 per cent, followed by construction, where 4.8 per cent of job openings remain unfilled. Following them is the hospitality sector, which had a vacancy rate of 3.7 per cent, then transportation, enterprise management, professional services and health services, which all trended above the national average at 3.4 per cent.

“Industries that have more micro businesses, small firms, like construction, like the transportation sector, like the personal services sector – which includes businesses like dry cleaners, repair shops and so on – they tend to be quite small compared to other industries, which is why those rates tend to be high,” Mr. Mallett said.

While high vacancy rates can prove challenging for employers, it also provides certain opportunities to employees and job seekers; some that wouldn’t be available in other market conditions.

“If a worker is at a company and it’s not exactly the role where they see themselves long term, or they’re not totally satisfied with their employer, now is the right time to look to make a change,” said Brendon Bernard, an economist for Indeed Canada. “This environment isn’t guaranteed to stay; if the economy goes south, those chances for job hopping and moving up the career ladder can take a hit, so you want to take advantage of the tight labour market now.”

Employers, on the other hand, continue to face some of the most competitive employment conditions in recent history, causing many to pursue new and innovative tactics for attracting and retaining talent. According to Monster Canada’s marketing leader Steve Mahoney, Canadian businesses need to go beyond generic job listings to develop an employer brand in order to compete.

“I recommend they take it above and beyond; add some life and get creative in terms of how they showcase the company and the workplace and the employees, and put together a good story that shows who they are and what they're all about,” he said.

Mr. Mallett of CFIB adds that there are a few policy changes that could improve hiring conditions for employers. He believes education, training and credentialing standards could better adapt to their rapidly changing needs. He also believes greater mobility between provinces would go a long way in filling some of those 429,000 vacancies.

“We’d like to see the provincial governments have mutual recognition of each other’s labour standards, industry accreditations as well as apprenticeships, so that anybody who may be accredited to work in one province should be automatically allowed to work in another under the same conditions,” he said.

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