Economic and Social Reports
Unemployment and job vacancies by education, 2016 to 2022

Release date: May 24, 2023

DOI: https://doi.org/10.25318/36280001202300500001-eng

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In 2022, the number of job vacancies in Canada averaged 942,000, two and a half times the average of 377,000 observed in 2016 (Statistics Canada Table 14-10-0328-01). The substantial growth in the number of job vacancies observed during this period has brought to the forefront the concept of labour shortages, the notion that, in some sectors of the economy, there might be an insufficient number of workers available to fill vacant positions.

Assessing whether there are enough workers to fill specific job vacancies is challenging because vacant positions have different skill requirements—minimum education, amount of experience, occupational and language skills—while workers may be competent in several occupations and have different skills, some of which are not captured in surveys.Note

One starting point is to compare the number of job vacancies requiring a given education level with the number of job seekers who have that education. This simple exercise allows one to answer the following questions:

  1. In recent years, has the national number of job vacancies requiring a given education level exceeded the number of job seekers with such an education?
  2. If so, in which regions has this greater number of job vacancies been observed?
  3. If so, for which education levels has this greater number of job vacancies been observed?

This exercise offers a useful perspective for understanding the nature of the current labour market tightness. For example, it allows an assessment of the degree to which a lack of highly educated workers underlies the recruitment challenges faced by Canadian employers.

Using data from the Job Vacancy and Wage Survey (JVWS) and the Labour Force Survey from 2016 to 2022, this article answers the three questions outlined above.

Since 2016, the number of unemployed Canadians with a bachelor’s degree or higher education has always exceeded the number of vacant positions requiring such an education

During every quarter from 2016 to 2022, the number of unemployed individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher education exceeded the number of vacant positions requiring such an education. For example, 113,000 vacant positions required a bachelor’s degree or higher education during the fourth quarter of 2022, about half the number of unemployed individuals who had such an education and were either born in Canada or were landed immigrants (227,000) (Table 1). The total number of vacant positions requiring such an education (113,000) was even lower than the number of unemployed immigrants (123,000) with a bachelor’s degree or higher education.Note

Likewise, from 2016 to 2022, the number of unemployed individuals with a partial or complete postsecondary education always exceeded the number of job vacancies requiring such an education.Note

In contrast, the number of vacant positions requiring a high school diploma or less education exceeded the number of unemployed Canadians with such an education only since the third quarter of 2021. For example, during the fourth quarter of 2022, 497,000 vacant positions required a high school diploma or less education while 296,000 unemployed Canadian-born individuals and 70,000 unemployed immigrants had such an education.

During the third quarter of 2022, the number of unemployed individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher education exceeded the number of job vacancies requiring such an education in virtually all sizable economic regions

This pattern is not limited to a few regions: during the third quarter of 2022—which recorded close to 1 million job vacancies nationwide—the number of vacant positions requiring a high school diploma or less education surpassed the number of unemployed individuals with such an education in all the economic regions considered in Table 2. For example, Montréal had about 35,000 such job vacancies during this quarter while the number of unemployed individuals with a high school diploma or less education averaged about 18,000. During the third quarter of 2022, hourly wages offered in these vacant positions averaged at most $20.35 per hour nationwide (Statistics Canada Table 14-10-0328-01).

In contrast, the number of vacant positions requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher education was lower than the number of unemployed individuals with such an education in all selected regions except Capitale-Nationale (Quebec). Likewise, the number of vacant positions requiring a partial or complete postsecondary education was generally lower than the number of unemployed individuals with such an education.

Taken together, Tables 1 and 2 provide no evidence that the recruitment difficulties experienced by Canadian employers seeking to fill positions requiring some postsecondary or higher education can be attributed to a lack of job seekers with such education levels.Note Instead, they suggest that the source of these recruitment difficulties likely reflects a mismatch between:

  1. the skills required for the job or the wages offered and
  2. the skills possessed (or recognized by employers) by highly educated unemployed individuals or their reservation wages.

A lack of concordance between the field of expertise required for the job and the field of study of job seekers or between the working conditions that prevail in some occupations and those desired by job seekers, the non-recognition of foreign credentials or foreign work experience, insufficient work experience, and inadequate language skills are examples of such mismatch.

Tables 1 and 2 also indicate that in recent quarters, the number of job vacancies requiring a high school diploma or less education has exceeded the number of unemployed individuals with such an education nationwide and in most economic regions. The relatively large number of such vacancies likely reflects a combination of factors, such as relatively low wage offers and fringe benefits, work schedules that might not align with the preferences of job seekers, and shortages of candidates with relevant experience in some—but not necessarily all—low-skilled occupations.

Conclusion

Not all job vacancies are equal. Some require relatively little education and offer relatively low wages while others require highly educated employees and offer relatively high wages.

This article shows that employers’ difficulties to fill job vacancies requiring high levels of education cannot, in general, be attributed to a national shortage of highly educated job seekers or to local shortages of such job seekers. For these jobs, there is potentially a large enough pool of highly educated workers at the national and local levels, but since these jobs are not homogenous, vacancies may arise because of a lack of concordance between the skills required for the job and the skills possessed by highly educated job seekers. A lack of individuals trained in specific areas (e.g., nursing and engineering), a lack of concordance between job seekers’ reservation wages and the wages offered in some vacant positions, and job seekers’ potentially imperfect knowledge about the existence of these vacancies may also be contributing factors.Note

This article also shows that national and local shortages of job seekers with appropriate education levels have been observed only for job vacancies requiring a high school diploma or less education. Furthermore, these shortages have been observed only recently, since the third quarter of 2021. The degree to which these job vacancies can be attributed to labour shortages in specific low-skilled occupations instead of relatively low-wage offers and fringe benefits or other factors remains an open question.

These findings add an important nuance to discussions about the optimal strategies to use, if any, to alleviate the recruitment challenges faced by several employers in Canada. They make it clear that the concept of labour shortage cannot be applied indiscriminately when analyzing the current state of Canada’s labour market.


Table 1
Number of job vacancies and unemployed individuals, by education, 2016 to 2022
Table summary
This table displays the results of Number of job vacancies and unemployed individuals. The information is grouped by Period (appearing as row headers), Education, High school diploma or less , Some or completed postsecondary education, Bachelor's degree or higher, Job vacancies, Unemployed Canadian-born individuals and Unemployed immigrants, calculated using thousands units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Period Education
High school diploma or less Some or completed postsecondary education Bachelor's degree or higher
Job vacancies Unemployed Canadian-born individuals Unemployed immigrants Job vacancies Unemployed Canadian-born individuals Unemployed immigrants Job vacancies Unemployed Canadian-born individuals Unemployed immigrants
thousands
2016
First quarter 193 504 106 95 454 113 42 128 135
Second quarter 242 455 97 103 412 119 46 107 137
Third quarter 253 450 96 100 382 108 52 162 146
Fourth quarter 241 402 88 94 360 98 46 108 128
2017
First quarter 236 465 103 104 430 102 47 115 125
Second quarter 295 432 101 113 387 99 52 111 117
Third quarter 298 388 93 116 366 103 53 142 147
Fourth quarter 303 335 79 113 338 100 53 101 129
2018
First quarter 287 402 89 119 377 100 56 112 109
Second quarter 351 380 78 135 345 89 61 119 119
Third quarter 349 349 99 138 353 90 64 146 127
Fourth quarter 344 317 73 138 295 91 65 103 119
2019
First quarter 302 378 90 137 374 100 67 113 129
Second quarter 362 358 87 150 338 87 69 98 124
Third quarter 354 354 97 141 323 91 68 139 140
Fourth quarter 308 329 83 132 297 82 69 98 121
2020
First quarter 290 425 92 149 416 108 74 125 161
Second quarter Note ...: not applicable 689 188 Note ...: not applicable 856 254 Note ...: not applicable 247 267
Third quarter Note ...: not applicable 570 170 Note ...: not applicable 584 199 Note ...: not applicable 270 233
Fourth quarter 328 450 145 161 470 148 72 187 192
2021
First quarter 304 481 147 168 569 187 81 171 187
Second quarter 444 455 146 194 478 181 93 159 185
Third quarter 583 421 139 228 418 161 101 186 179
Fourth quarter 570 315 107 240 320 121 106 119 146
2022
First quarter 517 374 103 259 351 113 115 123 140
Second quarter 636 329 97 272 264 94 124 103 128
Third quarter 604 317 87 271 278 89 117 140 145
Fourth quarter 497 296 70 246 240 82 113 104 123

Table 2
Number of job vacancies and unemployed individuals in selected economic regions, by education, third quarter of 2022
Table summary
This table displays the results of Number of job vacancies and unemployed individuals in selected economic regions. The information is grouped by Economic region (appearing as row headers), Education, High school diploma or less, Some or completed postsecondary education, Bachelor's degree or higher, Job vacancies and Unemployed, calculated using thousands units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Economic region Education
High school diploma or less Some or completed postsecondary education Bachelor's degree or higher
Job vacancies Unemployed Job vacancies Unemployed Job vacancies Unemployed
thousands
Halifax 7.8 6.5 2.8 4.0 1.8 3.7
Capitale-Nationale, Quebec 13.9 4.3 10.6 5.5 3.3 3.0
Montréal 35.2 18.2 25.5 25.8 15.9 33.3
Ottawa 23.1 11.8 8.1 11.8 5.2 13.3
Kingston–Pembroke 7.2 5.9 2.9 3.7 0.7 2.4
Toronto 94.7 92.8 48.4 80.6 30.6 87.9
Kitchener–Waterloo–Barrie 24.4 18.6 9.8 18.3 2.9 10.9
Hamilton–Niagara Peninsula 25.3 18.4 9.6 13.9 2.2 10.1
London 13.7 9.4 5.4 8.9 2.5 6.7
Windsor–Sarnia 8.8 7.9 4.0 9.3 0.9 5.8
Winnipeg 13.7 10.4 5.1 6.9 2.6 6.7
Regina–Moose Mountain 4.9 4.3 1.5 1.9 0.6 2.6
Calgary 24.8 19.3 9.4 14.0 4.9 24.1
Edmonton 22.3 21.2 8.5 16.5 2.9 10.6
Vancouver Island and Coast 16.1 7.0 4.9 7.2 1.7 5.5
Lower Mainland–Southwest 58.2 28.2 24.1 26.1 12.4 32.8

Author

René Morissette is with the Social Analysis and Modelling Division Analytical Studies and Modelling Branch at Statistics Canada.

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