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Study: Linking labour demand and labour supply: Job vacancies and the unemployed

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Released: 2017-11-01

In the two-year period from January 2015 to December 2016, there was an average of 1.33 million unemployed persons and 390,100 vacant jobs in Canada. Taken together, there were 3.4 unemployed persons for each job vacancy.

Since the beginning of 2017, labour market conditions have improved. In the second quarter of 2017, unemployment averaged 1.28 million and the number of job vacancies was 460,000, meaning that there were 2.8 unemployed persons for each job vacancy.

A new study, "Linking labour demand and labour supply: job vacancies and the unemployed," combines data from the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey (JVWS) and the Labour Force Survey (LFS) to provide a more complete picture of labour market supply and demand.

A key measure used in the study is the ratio of unemployed people to job vacancies. When the ratio is lower than 1.0, this indicates that there are more job vacancies than the number of unemployed persons. When the ratio is higher than 1.0, there are fewer job vacancies than unemployed people.

This ratio can be used to identify sectors of the economy where there is a shortage or excess of labour. It can also help in understanding whether the skills that are sought by employers differ from the ones available on the labour market.

Fewer unemployed workers per job vacancy in health occupations

The ratio of unemployed persons to job vacancies varied across occupations and across regions of Canada.

Results by occupation are obtained by taking the number of unemployed with recent work experience in a given occupation, and dividing them by the number of job vacancies in the same occupation.

Of all major occupation groups, health occupations had the lowest unemployment-to-job vacancy ratio, at 0.7. This indicates that there are fewer unemployed persons with suitable health experience or qualifications than there are job vacancies in health occupations.

Regardless of the region in Canada, the unemployment-to-job vacancy ratio was lower than 1.0 for health occupations.

Within the health sector, the ratio was lowest among professionals in nursing (0.3 unemployed persons for each job vacancy).

Other occupations had higher unemployment-to-job vacancy ratios. These include trades, transport and equipment operator occupations (3.5 unemployed persons per job vacancy) and natural resources, agriculture and related production occupations (3.0 unemployed persons per job vacancy).

Regionally, signals were mixed for these occupations. For example, in the Atlantic provinces, there were 13.3 unemployed people per job vacancy in natural resources, agriculture and related production occupations, compared with 1.7 unemployed persons per job vacancy in the same occupations in Ontario.

In sales and service occupations, there were 1.6 unemployed persons per job vacancy. Sales and service occupations typically account for a high number of both job vacancies and unemployed persons, because they are often characterized by higher levels of job turnover.

The ratio for sales and service occupations was higher in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, and lower in Ontario and Western Canada.

Job vacancies do not always match the education level of the unemployed

Nearly half of unemployed persons had at least a postsecondary degree or diploma. However, more than two-thirds of job vacancies did not require more than a high school education, indicating a potential mismatch between the skills of the unemployed and job openings.

If unemployed university-educated persons restricted their job search only to jobs requiring a university education, there would be over 5.9 unemployed university graduates per job opening.

  Note to readers

In this study, the data used for job vacancies are from the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey (JVWS), and the unemployment data comes from the Labour Force Survey (LFS). Quarterly data from both surveys are used to examine trends across provinces, occupation groups, education level, and economic regions.

The JVWS target population is all business locations in Canada excluding religious organizations; private households; and federal, provincial and territorial as well as international and other extraterritorial public administrations. The JVWS sample is selected from a survey population of approximately one million business locations compiled in the Business Register. For a job to be considered vacant, a position must be currently available, work could start within 30 days and an employer must be actively recruiting someone to fill the job from outside the organization.

The LFS is a monthly survey that collects labour market information from nearly 100,000 individuals in 56,000 households nationwide. The target population is the civilian, non-institutionalized population aged 15 and over. The LFS uses a rotating panel sample design so that selected dwellings remain in the LFS sample for six consecutive months. To be considered unemployed, a person must be available for work, could start work immediately and must be actively searching for work.

The LFS collects information on the recent work experience of the unemployed, so it is possible to generate a ratio of unemployed people by number of vacancies for each occupation group. The ratio does not show how many qualified workers are available to fill vacant positions, but can provide an indication of how tight the labour market is for some occupational categories.


The article "Linking labour demand and labour supply: job vacancies and the unemployed" is now available in Insights on Canadian Society (Catalogue number75-006-X).

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Marie Drolet (613-864-0691;

For more information on Insights on Canadian Society, contact Sébastien LaRochelle-Côté (613-951-0803;

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