Will Your Occupational Skills Pass Muster?

Commentary, Economy, Gerard A. Lucyshyn

Over half of all employed Canadians (52.7%) are working in occupations that value and require active learning skills. “Active learning” involves having the ability to understand the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.

There is now a notable increase in the proportion of workers employed in a variety of occupations where active learning is vital to success. In fact, approximately 73% of all occupations require workers to have reading comprehension, 59% of all occupations require writing skills, and 57.4% require workers to have complex solving skills.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, demand for workers who possess these skills has dramatically increased leaving some workers behind while presenting new opportunities for others. However, employers are continuing to struggle to fill vacant positions that require such skill sets, and many existing workers are trying to update themselves with such skills.

Popular belief holds that many workers simply are unwilling to return back to work, however, as of December 2021 the labour force has returned to its near pre-pandemic (December 2019) level. But the same can not be said about the distribution of workers.

The populations and labour forces of Alberta and Saskatchewan have remained roughly the same since the beginning of the pandemic, however, Canada’s population and labour force has actually grown nationally.

Labour Force Characteristics (‘000,000)

Alberta Canada Saskatchewan
Pre-Covid

Dec2019

Dec 2021 Pre-Covid

Dec2019

Dec 2021 Pre-Covid

Dec2019

Dec 2021
Population 3.5 3.5 30.9 31.5 0.89 0.89
Labour Force 2.5 2.4 20.2 20.5 0.61 0.60
Employed 2.3 2.2 19.1 19.3 0.57 0.56
Full-time 1.8 1.8 15.5 15.8 0.47 0.46
Part-time 0.43 0.42 3.5 3.5 0.10 0.10
Unemployed 0.17 0.18 1.1 1.2 0.03 0.03
Participation Rate 70.7% 69.2% 65.5% 65.3% 68.8% 67.5%
Unemployment Rate 7.0 7.3% 5.6% 5.9% 5.7% 5.4%
Employment Rate 65.8% 64.2% 61.8% 61.5% 64.8% 63.8%

Source: Data is from Statistics Canada

Approximately 75% of Canada’s population growth was a result of immigration. In October 2020, the Government of Canada launched its post-recovery plan. This plan set annual immigration goals of approximately 400,000 new immigrants each year between 2021-2023. Since launching the post-recovery plan, Canada has welcomed approximately 584,000 new residents to Canada. In fact, the Government of Canada estimates that by 2036, immigrants will represent up to 30% of Canada’s population, compared with 20.7% in 2011.

Immigration has accounted for almost 100% of Canada’s labor force growth. Canada has used immigration as a means to address labour shortages in key sectors of the economy, such as health care. As of December 2021, immigrants make up 37% of pharmacists, 36% of physicians, 39% of dentists, 23% of registered nurses, and 35% of nurse aides and other healthcare-related occupations. In fact, more newcomers to Canada are employed now than before the pandemic.

Employment rates amongst core-aged immigrants who arrived more than five years ago is approximately 82.6% and employment rates amongst core-aged people born in Canada are approximately 85.5%.

Unemployment rates continue to remain slightly higher than pre-pandemic levels in Alberta (7.3%) and Canada (5.9%), Saskatchewan has bounced back with a slightly lower unemployment rate (5.4%) than pre-pandemic levels (5.7%). However, despite the unemployment, employment, and participation rates nearing the pre-pandemic levels, the industries where workers are finding employment have shifted.

Employment by Industry

Alberta (‘000) Canada (‘000,000) Saskatchewan (‘000)
Pre-Covid

Dec2019

Dec 2021 Pre-Covid

Dec2019

Dec 2021 Pre-Covid

Dec2019

Dec 2021
Good-Producing Sector 577.6 535.6 3.9 3.9 141.9 125.9
Agriculture 49.6 32.5 0.29 0.24 39.4 23.9
Natural Resources 136.1 142.8 0.31 0.32 20.7 19.5
Utilities 24.2 17.4 0.13 0.14 5.6 6.4
Construction 235.2 224 1.4 1.4 44.8 44.5
Manufacturing 132.5 118.9 1.7 1.7 31.5 31.7
Services Producing Sector 1760.1 1754.8 15.2 15.4 437.2 442.7
Wholesale and retail trade 339.6 356.1 2.8 2.9 83.9 95.5
Transportation and 

 warehousing

132.3 136.9 1.0 1.0 25.9 26.2
Finance, insurance, real 

 estate, rental, and leasing

108.8 117.4 1.2 1.3 30.7 30.9
Professional, scientific, 

 and technical services

192.6 196.1 1.5 1.7 27.1 28.9
Business, building and 

 other support services

76.9 69 0.7 0.7 15.6 15.6
Educational Services 163.5 163.8 1.3 1.4 47.0 46.3
Healthcare and 

 Social Assistance

302.6 311 2.5 2.6 80 89.8
Information, culture and 

 recreation

77.1 68 0.76 0.78 23.1 16.9
Accommodation and 

 food services

154.4 123.7 1.2 1.0 41.8 32.8
Other Services (except  

 public administration)

105 102.6 0.8 0.72 28.8 25.1
Public Administration 107.3 110.2 1.0 1.1 33.4 34.7

Source: Data is from Statistics Canada

The industries that have lost the most workers in Alberta have been Agriculture (-35%), Utilities (-28%), and Accommodation and Food Services (-19%). The industries that have had the largest increases in the number of workers have been Finance, Insurance, Real Estate, Rental and Leasing (+7.8%), Natural Resources (+4.9%), and Wholesale and Retail (+4.9%).

Saskatchewan’s Agriculture (-39.%), Information, Culture, Recreation (-27%), and Accommodation and Food Services (-22%) were the industries that had the most number of workers leave. Major increases in Saskatchewan industries occurred in Utilities (+14.3%), Wholesale and Retail Trade (+13.8%), and Healthcare and Social Assistance (+12.3%).

In addition to changing industries, there also have been changes between occupations from pre-pandemic to December 2021.

Based on the number of people by occupation for Canada, the number of males and females employed has increased and they are working more average hours weekly now than in 2019. There are now more unionized workers and slightly more non-union workers both working more average hours per week and an increase in the number of permanent employees.

Number of People by occupation and Average Weekly Hours Pre-Covid v. December 2021

Canada (‘000,000s) People 2019 (‘000,000) People 2021 Avg Weekly Hours 2019 Avg Weekly Hours 2021
Males 8.1 8.4 37.3 37.4
Females 8.0 8.2 32.8 33
Union 4.8 5.1 35.6 36.1
Non-union 11.3 11.5 34.8 34.9
Permanent 14.2 14.7 36.1 36.2
Temporary 1.9 1.9 27.1 27.6
Management occupations 1.0 1.1 39.7 39.5
Business, finance, and administration, occupations 2.8 3.0 35.6 35.5
Natural and applied sciences and related occupations 1.3 1.6 38.4 38.5
Health occupations 1.1 1.3 33.9 33.8
Occupations in education, law, and social community and government services 1.9 2.0 33.1 34.2
Occupations  in art, culture, recreation, and sport 0.3 0.3 29.5 31.1
Sales and services occupations 4.1 3.8 30.3 30.2
Trades, transport and equipment operators, and related occupations 2.2 2.2 39.7 39.6
Natural Resources, agriculture, and related production 0.2 0.2 42.5 41.2
Occupations in manufacturing and utilities 0.7 0.7 39.4 38.8

Source: Data from Statistics Canada

The largest increases in occupations have been in the Natural and Applied Sciences and related occupations (+23%), Health occupations (+18.2%), and Management (+10%). The occupation that has had the largest decrease has been in Sales and Services falling by approximately 273,000 (-7.3%) people, marking the largest occupational decline across all major occupational groups in Canada.

As Canadian workers shift industries and occupations in the new COVID-19 world, older workers set into retirement, and more new Canadians are welcomed, workers will need to improve or shift their former occupational skills to meet labour market demands, simply by asking … Will your occupational skills pass muster?

 

Gerard Lucyshyn is an economist and an economics lecturer in the Department of Economics, Justice and Policy Studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. He has also served as a business and economic consultant to a variety of industries. Gerard has authored a number of articles and research papers on municipal, provincial, federal and international economic and policy issues.