Job vacancies in Canada hit record-high. What does this mean for international students?

Job vacancies in Canada hit an all-time high in the third quarter of 2021, numbering 912,600 in total.
The third quarter in 2021 saw an increase in the number of Canadian job vacancies by more than 62% compared to the same timeframe in 2019. Source: Emma McIntyre / Getty Images via AFP

While Canada is bracing for another wave of Omicron-related COVID-19 cases, its job market is showing signs of recovery. According to a new report, job vacancies in Canada have soared to record-high numbers in the third quarter of 2021. Statistics Canada (StatsCan) writes that 912,600 job openings were recorded in the third quarter, citing overall employment growth and declining unemployment rates as reasons behind the numbers.

The rise of job opportunities occurs just as the country’s economy is bouncing back after the easing of public health restrictions. Saskatchewan accounts for the largest uptick in job vacancies in Canada, followed by Quebec and Ontario, according to CIC News

Around two-thirds of the increase stemmed from five sectors: healthcare and social assistance, accommodation and food services, construction, retail trade, and manufacturing, StatCan reports. “The record-high job vacancies observed in recent months has focused attention on the extent to which unmet labour demand will contribute to upward pressure on wages,” it states. This is most pronounced in healthcare and social assistance, where increased economic activity is still hampered by unmet labour demands. 

Job vacancies in Canada: Trends, in-demand skills, and opportunities for graduates 

Job vacancies in Canada: the healthcare and social assistance sector surged in job demands due to the burden placed on the healthcare system throughout the pandemic.

The healthcare and social assistance sector reported a significant increase in job vacancies due to rising demands placed on the healthcare system during the pandemic. Source: Cole Burston / Getty Images via AFP

Does this job opening boost portend well for international students or immigrants to contribute to the Canadian labour market?  While more positions may be up for grabs, StatsCan points out that more vacancies are available in low-wage occupations compared to high-earning jobs between the third quarter of 2019 and the third quarter of 2021. 

The food services and accommodation sector, manufacturing, and retail and trade all point out to dwindling payroll employment compared to 2019. StatsCan mentioned several factors contributing to this data, including the urgency to fill jobs that were left vacant when businesses resume operations in the summer of 2021 post-COVID 19 lockdowns. 

For international students in Canada who are struggling with post-graduation employment, this could potentially mean applying for positions that they are overqualified for, or finding jobs in sectors that differ from their majors. Fulfilling the unmet labour demand in Canada might be the temporary solution needed before the road for a more secure, high-paying position opens up. 

Current job vacancies centred in low-wage positions certainly won’t help to alleviate the unemployment crisis that foreign students are facing. They are already earning less than their local counterparts, and policies such as the post-graduate work permit (PGWP) doesn’t always guarantee a smooth-sailing transition into the Canadian workforce. 

Although the potential pay-off can be substantial if you have a Canadian degree, international students suffer many disadvantages when it comes to landing a secure long-term employment. For starters, they are often passed over for local candidates even for part-time work and internships during their studies. This translates to lacklustre CVs with little practical experience, especially when pitted against local students.

It’s probably why most international students, whether they had originally intended to remain in Canada or not, eventually leave the country after graduation, according to the Vancouver Sun. 

The report also lists in-demand skills that are valued by Canadian employers. Active listening skills are deemed important in 83.9% of vacant jobs, while critical thinking skills, complex problem solving and technical skills are highly favoured in the Canadian job market. Other skills such as speaking, social perceptiveness and time management are similarly valued in Canadian jobs that need to be filled. 

Nevertheless, the job market in Canada seems to be looking up. The report mentions that total employment in October and November had gone up by 185,000, with the unemployment rate dropping to 6.0%.