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For more than a year, Canada’s record labour shortage has held the promise of generous pay bumps for those willing to switch jobs. But with economists increasingly worried about a recession and some tech companies trimming their headcounts, some workers are starting to wonder whether jumping ship may no longer be a good idea.

It’s what Toronto HR expert Allison Venditti calls the “should I stay or should I go” dilemma – and she’s been hearing that question a lot lately from employees pondering a move, she said.

“On the one hand, we’re hearing about these big layoffs – Shopify being one of them,” she said. “And on the other hand, it’s like hospitals, front-line service, customer support are all completely understaffed.”

Shopify Inc. SHOP-T made headlines this week with news that it had cut 10 per cent of its staff, or about 1,000 people globally, as it struggles to adjust to slower e-commerce growth. The company also rescinded internships and job offers for new hires who were set to start work in the fall. Earlier this summer, fintech company Wealthsimple Technologies Inc. laid off 13 per cent of its work force as changing market conditions pummel the technology sector.

But hiring trends suggest that, while there are signs of a cooldown, it’s still a workers’ job market out there, even in the tech industry.

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On employment platform Indeed Canada, for example, job postings as of July 22 were 65 per cent above their prepandemic levels at the start of February, 2020. That’s only 5 per cent lower than early May, the company’s seasonally adjusted data show.

The cooldown from the torrid conditions of earlier this year “hasn’t been like jumping in a freezing pool or lake, it’s like finding shade under a tree,” said Brendon Bernard, senior economist in Canada at Indeed.

While the pace of hiring has slowed in the technology sector, the industry’s trajectory so far is in line with that of the overall labour market, Mr. Bernard said. Job postings in goods-producing sectors like manufacturing and construction, which tend to be particularly sensitive to economic booms and busts, are also down from record highs earlier this year, but have stabilized through the summer thus far, Indeed data show. At the same time, labour demand in the health care sector, customer service and hospitality is holding steady, Mr. Bernard noted.

The latest available data from Statistics Canada, released on Thursday, show employers were actively seeking to fill a little more than one million vacant positions at the beginning of May, up 42.5 per cent compared with the same month last year.

Still, if you’re worried about what the economy might look like in a few months and how secure you’d be as a recent hire, spend some time investigating your potential new employer, says Michael Scott of Vancouver-based Impact Recruitment.

It’s a good idea to ask detailed questions about the future of the company and your role in it, he added. In the tech sector, for example, you may want to know more about upcoming funding rounds and how that money will be spent, whether the company is contemplating an initial public offering, and how diversified its revenue streams are, according to Mr. Scott.

In general, you should also try to gauge whether you might be able to move to a different role should the position you’ve been hired for become redundant, he said. And an ability to advance quickly at the company also opens up more opportunities, reducing the chance you’d find yourself on the chopping block during tough times, he noted.

And although many companies are still recruiting “at full tilt,” the changing economic climate is making employers less prone to doling out outsized paycheques to new hires, according to Ms. Venditti.

Still, employees who haven’t seen a pay increase in years and whose wages have fallen far below inflation and market rates for the position they hold are still likely to significantly boost their compensation by changing employers, she added.

If you feel stuck in your career and underpaid, you have little to lose by sending around your résumé, she argues.

And if you’re worried about leaving a secure job, Ms. Venditti said, wait until you have an offer in hand and something to compare with your current position before making the decision that you want to stay put. If you get cold feet, you can always decline the offer, she noted.

Are you a young Canadian with money on your mind? To set yourself up for success and steer clear of costly mistakes, listen to our award-winning Stress Test podcast.

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