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Assessing Transitions in Canada’s Jobs Markets

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by Alex Carrick last update:Sep 11, 2017

In Canada, the same as in the United States, there are two approaches to assessing labour markets each month. The one yielding the headline unemployment rate is the Labour Force Survey (LFS). The one providing information on employment at detailed sub-sector industry levels is the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH).
2017-09-08-Canada-Labour-Graphic

Statistics Canada records that SEPH results are “produced by a combination of a census of approximately one million payroll deductions provided by the Canada Revenue Agency, and the Business Payrolls Survey, which collects data from a sample of 15,000 establishments. Federal, provincial and territorial public administration data are collected from various administrative records provided by these levels of government.”

Since the sub-sector jobs data provided by SEPH is not seasonally adjusted (NSA), the curves in the graphs which follow show 12-month moving averages (placed in the latest month).

The tables record: (1) levels of employment in each province or territory in June 2017; (2) each province’s or territory’s share of the total Canada figure; (3) the nominal change in number of jobs year over year; and (4) the percentage change in number of jobs year over year.

The sub-sectors being presented have been chosen either due to their relevance for construction or to examine the degree to which Canada’s economy is transitioning away from raw materials and towards the high-tech, computer sciences and/or communications realm.

Architectural, Engineering and Related Services

Employment with the design professions has obvious implications for on-site construction work.

Projects must be visualized and rendered into assembly instructions (i.e., working drawings) before they can be put together or erected.

Graph 1 shows that thanks to a wealth of mega resource projects and the public sector’s commitment to infrastructure spending, the number of jobs with Canadian architectural and engineering firms climbed rapidly, for the most part, from 2004 through mid-2013. There was the one year of contraction in 2009 when the economy staggered under the weight of the Great Recession.

Over the past several years, however, employment with architectural and engineering firms in Canada has stumbled. Hopefully, the launching of the Infrastructure Bank this fall will set loose a next wave of major construction undertakings.

Table 1 records that Ontario (34.9%), among all provinces and territories, accounts for the largest share of employment in architectural and engineering services in Canada.

Alberta (21.2%) is next in line, although it has been struggling to maintain a lead over Quebec (20.3%). Year over year, Alberta (-4.5%) has experienced a contraction in such work, while Quebec (+1.1%) has made a modest gain.

With respect to share, B.C. (15.3%) is in fourth spot.

Among the ‘big four’, only Ontario has managed a significant year-over-year advance (+7.5%) in design services jobs.

Graph 1: Canada Employment in Key Sub-Sectors
Architectural & Engineering Services - Jobs
(12-month moving averages placed in latest month)
Architectural & Engineering Services - Jobs
Data source: Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH), Statistics Canada (Cansim Table 281-0023).
Chart: ConstructConnect.
Table 1: Architectural, Engineering & Related Services
June, 2017
Level % Share of Nominal Change % Change
(Number of jobs) Total Canada Y/Y Y/Y
Nfld/Lab 2,504 1.3% (147) -5.5%
P.E.I. 359 0.2% 57 18.9%
Nova Scotia 2,955 1.5% 85 3.0%
New Brunswick 2,484 1.3% 130 5.5%
Quebec 39,638 20.3% 417 1.1%
Ontario 68,300 34.9% 4,786 7.5%
Manitoba 3,403 1.7% 21 0.6%
Saskatchewan 4,193 2.1% 247 6.3%
Alberta 41,493 21.2% (1,947) -4.5%
B.C. 29,896 15.3% 1,159 4.0%
NWT 286 0.1% 76 36.2%
Rest of Canada 208 0.1% 84 n/a
Canada 195,719 100.0% 4,892 2.6%
Industry code 5413 / 'n/a' means not applicable.
Data source: Cansim Table: 281-0023 (SEPH).
Table: ConstructConnect.

Motion Picture and Sound Recording Industries

The entertainment sector probably isn’t the first place most people would consider to find a big upsurge in Canadian employment. Graph 2, however, shows they would be overlooking a remarkable lift-off.

The number of jobs in movie, video and music production in Canada has increased by nearly one-third over the past three years. The exchange rate has played an important role. The Canadian dollar, a.k.a. the ‘loonie’, took a big hit when the world price of oil plunged in mid-2014.

A ‘loonie’ valued at only 75-80 cents versus the U.S. dollar, combined with some tax breaks, has lured American production companies across the border. It should also be noted, though, that this is a ‘golden age’ for entertainment programming.

Never before has there been such an abundance of platforms looking for and developing product.

The number of U.S. jobs in movie, video and music production has been climbing with every bit as much vigor as in Canada.

So many television shows are produced on the West Coast − partly due to the wonderful scenery – it might easily be assumed that B.C.’s share of the national total would be inordinately large. Therefore, the numbers shown in Table 2 are a bit of a surprise.

While B.C. has a nice enough slice at 17.9%, it’s Ontario with a 47.8% (or nearly half of the pie) portion that is really the powerhouse. Quebec is second with a 26.0% share.

By way of comparison, the total Canada population shares of Ontario, Quebec and B.C. are 39%, 23% and 13% respectively.

Other parts of the country certainly do garner such work as well (e.g., the triple-Oscar winning film, The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio was largely shot in Alberta.), but their combined share is a small 8.3%.

B.C. should be pleased that its year-over-year change in entertainment jobs had led the nation recently, at a more than healthy +14.8%.

Graph 2: Canada Employment in Key Sub-Sectors
Movies, Videos & Music - Jobs
(12-month moving averages placed in latest month)
Movies, Videos & Music - Jobs
Data source: Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH), Statistics Canada (Cansim Table 281-0023).
Chart: ConstructConnect.
Table 2: Motion Picture & Sound Recording Industries
June, 2017
Level % Share of Nominal Change % Change
(Number of jobs) Total Canada Y/Y Y/Y
Quebec 11,751 26.0% 175 1.5%
Ontario 21,573 47.8% 1,338 6.6%
B.C. 8,088 17.9% 1,043 14.8%
Rest of Canada 3,734 8.3% 307 n/a
Canada 45,146 100.0% 2,863 6.8%
Industry code 512 / 'n/a' means not applicable.
Data source: Cansim Table: 281-0023 (SEPH).
Table: ConstructConnect.

Computer Systems Design and Related Services

The U.S. economy has performed better than nearly all others since the Great Recession and much of that success can be chalked up to a turbo-charged high-tech sector. NASDAQ has been carried to a more than 300% increase since its last trough by publicly-traded firms engaged in information and communications; in expanding social media; and in selling and distributing goods and services through digital means.

Jobs in the U.S. ‘computer systems design and related services’ sector have been consistently trending upwards since 2003 – except for a minor dip in 2009, when the whole world was suffering from severe indigestion.

Graph 3 highlights that Canada has jumped on the ‘rocket’ as well. Since 2013, north of the border, employment with computer systems design firms has expanded by nearly 50%.

Four provinces account for a combined 94% of total jobs in the sector – Ontario (46.1%); Quebec (27.8%); B.C. (12.3%); and Alberta (8.1%).

Over the past 12 months, when all jobs in Canada have risen by +2.1%, computer sciences companies have ramped up their hiring by +9.9%. Regionally, the most impressive change has occurred in Ontario (+11.9%), although Quebec (+9.6%) and B.C. (+8.5%) have turned on the jets as well.

Alberta, consistent with an economy still somewhat burdened with energy-sector woes, managed a tepid +0.8%.

Graph 3: Canada Employment in Key Sub-Sectors
Computer Systems Design Services - Jobs
(12-month moving averages placed in latest month)
Computer Systems Design Services
Data source: Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH), Statistics Canada (Cansim Table 281-0023).
Chart: ConstructConnect.
Table 3: Computer Systems Design and Related Services
June, 2017
Level % Share of Nominal Change % Change
(Number of jobs) Total Canada Y/Y Y/Y
Nfld/Lab 994 0.4% 243 32.4%
P.E.I. 566 0.2% 72 14.6%
Nova Scotia 4,035 1.8% 705 21.2%
New Brunswick 2,209 1.0% 27 1.2%
Quebec 63,019 27.8% 5,502 9.6%
Ontario 104,695 46.1% 11,095 11.9%
Manitoba 2,753 1.2% 416 17.8%
Saskatchewan 1,986 0.9% 112 6.0%
Alberta 18,380 8.1% 137 0.8%
B.C. 27,819 12.3% 2,169 8.5%
Rest of Canada 44 0.1% (13) n/a
Canada 226,500 100.0% 20,465 9.9%
Industry code 5415 / 'n/a' means not applicable.
Data source: Cansim Table: 281-0023 (SEPH).
Table: ConstructConnect.

Software Publishers

The field of software development has grown far beyond its earliest uses (e.g., word processing, financial spreadsheets, etc.) and is now ubiquitous (e.g., applications for smart phones and tablets; data streaming; etc.).

The most exciting new frontier is computer generated imagery (CGI) for virtual reality devices, smart phones and gaming. There are firms in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Waterloo and Vancouver that have earned world-class reputations due to the highly skilled efforts of their programmers.

Graph 4 makes apparent that the sizable increase in the number of software publishing jobs in Canada from mid-2004 on has come in waves, with 2005-2009 and 2012-2014 being particularly bullish.

Ontario, with a 48.7% share of total Canada jobs in the sector, is the standout. Quebec (+22.3%) and B.C. (20.3%) are almost neck and neck for runner-up status.

But it’s been ‘software publishers’ in Ontario (+13.5%) and B.C. (+9.6%) that have added significantly to their payrolls over the past year, while similar Quebec employers (-6.7%) have taken a step backwards.

Graph 4: Canada Employment in Key Sub-Sectors
Software Publishers - Jobs
(12-month moving averages placed in latest month)
Software Publishers - Jobs
Data source: Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH), Statistics Canada (Cansim Table 281-0023).
Chart: ConstructConnect.
Table 4: Software Publishers
June, 2017
Level % Share of Nominal Change % Change
(Number of jobs) Total Canada Y/Y Y/Y
Quebec 9,443 22.3% (677) -6.7%
Ontario 20,612 48.7% 2,458 13.5%
Manitoba 393 0.9% 3 0.8%
Alberta 2,080 4.9% (115) -5.2%
B.C. 8,847 20.9% 772 9.6%
Rest of Canada 932 2.2% 56 n/a
Canada 42,307 100.0% 2,497 6.3%
Industry code 5112 / 'n/a' means not applicable.
Data source: Cansim Table: 281-0023 (SEPH).
Table: ConstructConnect.

Telecommunications

The business of telecommunication can trace its origin back to Alexander Graham Bell. The modern face of telecommunications, however, which has morphed from copper wiring to coaxial and fiber-optic cable, and now a full-throated commitment to wireless, has been a comparatively recent development.

Total employment in the sector in Canada has climbed to a quite respectable 126,000 jobs.

As shown in Table 5, four provinces account for the bulk of the work: Ontario (38.4%); Quebec (22.6%); B.C. (11.8%); and Alberta (9.1%).

In all the other sectors under consideration in this article, the ‘Rest of Canada’ share is low. But in telecommunications, ROC is a significant 18.0%.

Much of that 18.0% may be in Saskatchewan. That province’s numbers are blacked out in the source material. This happens when Statistics Canada fears that releasing data from only a few respondents, with one of them being perhaps dominant, may breach confidentiality provisions.

B.C. (+12.0%) has been the only province with a large year-over-year improvement in positions with telecommunications enterprises. Total Canada has been standing pat, -0.2%.

Graph 5: Canada Employment in Key Sub-Sectors
Telecommunications - Jobs
(12-month moving averages placed in latest month)
Telecommunications - Jobs
Data source: Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH), Statistics Canada (Cansim Table 281-0023).
Chart: ConstructConnect.
Table 5: Telecommunications
June, 2017
Level % Share of Nominal Change % Change
(Number of jobs) Total Canada Y/Y Y/Y
Quebec 28,596 22.6% 1 0.0%
Ontario 48,559 38.4% (2,086) -4.1%
Alberta 11,529 9.1% 44 0.4%
B.C. 14,906 11.8% 1,601 12.0%
Rest of Canada 22,800 18.0% 240 n/a
Canada 126,390 100.0% (200) -0.2%
Industry code 517 / 'n/a' means not applicable. Saskatchewan's numbers, especially, are subject to confidentiality in the source data.
Data source: Cansim Table: 281-0023 (SEPH).
Table: ConstructConnect.

Computer and Electronic Product Manufacturing

Once the jobs analysis moves into manufacturing, the news is less upbeat.

Graph 6 shows almost nothing but a steady decline in the number of ‘computer and electronic product manufacturing’ jobs since early in the new century.

According to Table 6, employment in this sector in Canada is concentrated in Ontario (with a 53.5% share), Quebec (26.8%) and B.C. (9.9%).

Furthermore, slight year-over-year gains in Ontario (+3.0%) and B.C. (+1.0%) could not prevent a slide for total Canada (-2.7%), with Quebec (-10.5%) and Alberta (-19.6%) tumbling fastest.

As a point of interest, adding together the jobs levels for five of the six categories that have been discussed so far − ‘motion picture and sound recording industries’, ‘computer systems design and related services’, ‘software publishers’, ‘telecommunications’ and ‘computer and electronic product manufacturing’ − yields a total of 500,000 (or half a million), a substantial sum.

Construction on its own, however, accounts for more than a million jobs. And that’s direct on-site employment, not including all the spin-off work.

Graph 6: Canada Employment in Key Sub-Sectors
Computer & Electronic Product Manufacturing - Jobs
(12-month moving averages placed in latest month)
Computer & Electronic Product Manufacturing - Jobs
Data source: Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH), Statistics Canada (Cansim Table 281-0023).
Chart: ConstructConnect.
Table 6: Computer & Electronic Product Manufacturing
June, 2017
Level % Share of Nominal Change % Change
(Number of jobs) Total Canada Y/Y Y/Y
Quebec 14,753 26.8% (1,738) -10.5%
Ontario 29,415 53.5% 863 3.0%
Manitoba 658 1.2% 124 23.2%
Alberta 2,724 5.0% (664) -19.6%
B.C. 5,425 9.9% 52 1.0%
Rest of Canada 1,978 3.6% (145) n/a
Canada 54,953 100.0% (1,508) -2.7%
Industry code 334 / 'n/a' means not applicable.
Data source: Cansim Table: 281-0023 (SEPH).
Table: ConstructConnect.

Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing

From Graph 7, it’s apparent that ‘aerospace product and parts manufacturing’ has had a checkered history in Canada. Periods of plenty have been quickly followed by years of fallow. Since 2015, jobs in the industry have been caught in the latter.

This is a sub-sector where Quebec stands tall. With a 54.8% share, it has more than half the national jobs level. Ontario is next (26.9%), with Manitoba (8.9%) in third place.

Some of the most familiar company names are Bombardier (Montreal and Toronto), Bell Helicopter (Montreal), Pratt & Whitney (Montreal and Halifax), CAE (flight deck simulators – Montreal and Toronto) and Boeing (Winnipeg).

It’s been the financial troubles (accompanied by layoffs) at Bombardier, together with the slow take-off in sales for the company’s new ultra-quiet C-Series jet, that have attracted the most media attention.

As affluence proliferates globally, international air travel is expected to present tremendous growth opportunities. Airport terminal and runway expansions are proceeding or planned in multiple locations throughout North America and around the world.

And even tourism travel into space is on track to become attainable for a cost less than a king’s ransom.

Aerospace is a high-tech corner of manufacturing where Canada can’t afford to hit the ‘snooze’ button.

Graph 7: Canada Employment in Key Sub-Sectors
Aerospace Product Manufacturing - Jobs
(12-month moving averages placed in latest month)
Aerospace Product Manufacturing - Jobs
Data source: Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH), Statistics Canada (Cansim Table 281-0023).
Chart: ConstructConnect.
Table 7: Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing
June, 2017
Level % Share of Nominal Change % Change
(Number of jobs) Total Canada Y/Y Y/Y
Nova Scotia 1,579 3.6% (214) -11.9%
Quebec 24,055 54.8% (1,320) -5.2%
Ontario 11,794 26.9% (556) -4.5%
Manitoba 3,899 8.9% (226) -5.5%
B.C. 1,624 3.7% (95) -5.5%
Rest of Canada 961 2.2% 5 n/a
Canada 43,912 100.0% (2,406) -5.2%
Industry code 3364 / 'n/a' means not applicable.
Data source: Cansim Table: 281-0023 (SEPH).
Table: ConstructConnect.

Cement and Concrete Product Manufacturing

Examining the history of jobs in Canadian ‘cement and concrete product manufacturing’ seems a good way to wrap up this overview. Not only is this sector a more traditional source of employment, but it also has obvious close ties to construction activity.

By recording a mostly ascendant trajectory in employment (Graph 8), cement and concrete production has bucked the trend in many other sub-sectors of manufacturing.

Moreover, it’s interesting to note (from Table 8) cement and concrete production’s diverse geographic reach. Nearly every province has a stake. Concrete is supplied locally, limiting opportunities for the offshoring of work.

The usual four provinces provide most of the jobs: Ontario (35.4% of the Canada total); Quebec (25.5%); Alberta (17.0%); and B.C. (11.1%).

But it’s been the two westernmost provinces that have accounted for the biggest leaps in employment over the past year: B.C. at +8.2%; and Alberta, +37.1%.

Counterbalancing declines in Ontario (-9.8%) and Quebec (-8.1%) have caused the Canada-wide figure to be flat (+0.4%).

In the latest month, Canada also had the upper hand on the U.S. in year-over-year services-providing jobs (Graph 2), +2.1% versus +1.8%, and in manufacturing (Graph 3), +1.9% versus +0.5% (Graphs 2 and 3).

Graph 8: Canada Employment in Key Sub-Sectors
Cement & Concrete Product Manufacturing - Jobs
(12-month moving averages placed in latest month)
Cement & Concrete Product Manufacturing - Jobs
Data source: Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH), Statistics Canada (Cansim Table 281-0023).
Chart: ConstructConnect.
Table 8: Cement & Concrete Product Manufacturing
June, 2017
Level % Share of Nominal Change % Change
(Number of jobs) Total Canada Y/Y Y/Y
Nova Scotia 655 2.1% 231 54.5%
Quebec 7,962 25.5% (700) -8.1%
Ontario 11,075 35.4% (1,210) -9.8%
Manitoba 1,025 3.3% 75 7.9%
Saskatchewan 902 2.9% 33 3.8%
Alberta 5,312 17.0% 1,438 37.1%
B.C. 3,475 11.1% 262 8.2%
Rest of Canada 854 2.7% (7) n/a
Canada 31,260 100.0% 122 0.4%
Industry code 3273 / 'n/a' means not applicable.
Data source: Cansim Table: 281-0023 (SEPH).
Table: ConstructConnect.

last update:Sep 11, 2017

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