Canada’s jobless are finding it harder to find work

Survey findings are in contrast to increasing vacancies and record unemployment, suggesting skills disconnect

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Despite increasing job vacancies and record low unemployment, Canada’s jobless find it harder to find work. The length of unemployment in Canada continues to rise and the number that have “completely giving up” is back up.

These are the findings of the fifth annual survey of the unemployed in Canada, commissioned by Express Employment Professionals.

Despite today’s decades’ low 5.8% unemployment rate (Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, May 11, 2018) the unemployed express greater levels of resignation compared to last year’s survey. The average duration of unemployment continues to rise, now at 19 months, the highest level recorded by the survey in five years.

The national survey of 1,510 jobless Canadians age 18 and older was conducted online by The Harris Poll between March 28 and April 10, 2018, on behalf of Express and offers the only detailed, in-depth look at the background and attitudes of the unemployed in Canada.

“It’s important that we address the disconnect between businesses and the unemployed,” said Bruce Hein of Express Employment Professionals in Sarnia. “There are help wanted signs everywhere you look, yet we’re seeing a very low labour force participation rate. In today’s tight labour market, businesses should be hiring for attitude and training for the skills they need.”

Hein said job seekers need to make sure they possess the soft skills companies require, which for most entry-level jobs are reliability, dependability, and a positive attitude.

“No matter what challenges the unemployed are facing, holding down a job will only improve their situation,” added Hein.

There are currently 1,555,000 unemployed in Canada. The latest Statistics Canada numbers show year-over-year job vacancies up in nine of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories in the fourth quarter of 2017. There are just under 500,000 job vacancies nationwide.[1] The labour force participation rate in Canada remains stubbornly low at 65.4%

Length of Unemployment Increases

The population of the long-term unemployed is increasing as fewer Canadians have indicated that they have been unemployed for three months or less (25% in 2018 vs. 28% in 2017), while more Canadians have said they have been unemployed 24 months or more (29% in 2018 vs. 26% in 2017). These negative trends have led to lengthier periods of unemployment as the average length is more than 6 months longer than it was in 2014.

The unemployed reported that they are putting less effort into looking for work, or an average of 12.3 hours looking for work last week (at the time of interviewing). That is down from 13.4 hours in 2017 and 14.9 hours in 2016.

A large majority had no interviews in the previous month:

  • 58% had been on zero interviews
  • 25% had been on one or two interviews
  • 17% had been on three or more

More Unemployed Canadians are Giving Up…

Some 38% of the unemployed agree with the statement, “I’ve completely given up on looking for a job,” compared to 32% in 2017, 36% in 2016, 38% in 2015, and 39% in 2014.

Unemployed List the Barriers to Employment

 In the survey, unemployed Canadians listed reasons why they left their last job and what they see as the barriers to employment. Some of these include a perception of ageism against older workers, workplace and other injuries, health and medical issues, seasonal work and stigma against those with little experience. Some also cite child care and elder care challenges as barriers to their employment.

 Pessimism on Performance of Prime Minister Trudeau and Premiers

 Over halfway through Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate, a picture is emerging as to how the unemployed feel the government is moving.  Six-in-10 (58%) of unemployed Canadians feel the government is moving in the wrong direction. Reinforcing this pessimistic assessment, only two-in-10 feel the Trudeau government has had a positive impact on creating jobs (22%). This is down significantly from opinions gathered in 2017 (34%). Half now say that the Trudeau government has had no impact on creating jobs (47%).

Notably, unemployed Canadians hold similar feelings over their provincial governments as only two-in-10 feel they have had a positive impact on creating jobs (20% vs. 21% in 2017 and 24% in 2016). Similar to views about the Trudeau government, half of the unemployed believe that the provincial government has had no impact at all on creating jobs (50%).

Who are the Unemployed in Canada?

 According to the survey, 56% of the unemployed are men; 44% are women.

 The largest age group is the 18 – 29 age group:

  • 32% are ages 18 – 29
  • 21% are ages 30 – 39
  • 17% are ages 40 – 49
  • 21% are ages 50 – 59
  • 10% are 60 or older

The majority lacks a college degree:

  • 15% did not complete high school
  • 26% graduated from high school
  • 10% received a trade certificate or diploma
  • 17% received a certificate or Diploma from Community College or CEGEP
  • 7% completed some University but no degree
  • 3% University Certificate or Diploma below Bachelor level
  • 14% Bachelor degree
  • 7% graduate or professional

 Those with a college degree reported receiving their diplomas in the following areas:

  • 35% in science
  • 20% in liberal arts
  • 16% in business
  • 7% in education
  • 4% in fine arts
  • 18% in another area

 About the Survey

This study was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals and included 1,510 Canadian adults aged 18 or older who are unemployed but capable of working (whether or not they receive unemployment compensation benefits). Excluded are those who are currently retired, choose to stay at home, or are unable to work due to long-term disability. The survey was conducted between March 28 and April 10, 2018.

Results were weighted as needed by gender for age, education, race/ethnicity, region and household income. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ penchant to be online. Totals may not equal the sum of their individual components due to rounding. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.

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