Have a high school diploma? Canada has a job for you

As Canada’s economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a surge in job openings. In general, these vacant positions require very little education.

In 2022, there was a quarterly average of 563,000 job openings requiring a high school diploma or less, up 70 percent from the 2019 average, according to a new Statistics Canada report. About six in 10 unfilled jobs require that level of education, the same proportion as before the pandemic.

However, there was an important shift in 2021 that persists today: There is more demand for these roles than unemployed people with lower educational levels.

Canada’s labor market generates thousands of positions each month, which has pushed unemployment to historically low levels and created many opportunities for people who often struggle to find work.

In some cases, the residual position is unattractive. The Statscan report says the high volume of vacant jobs that require little education is likely due to a variety of factors, such as the relatively low wages offered and unwanted working hours.

It’s a different story for those with post-secondary education. Last year, there was a quarterly average of 117,000 positions requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher – or less than half the number of unemployed people with that level of education.

Shortage of workers? Canada’s supply of labor is actually strong

The report said that “employers’ difficulty filling vacancies requiring a higher level of education cannot, in general, be attributed to a national shortage of highly educated job seekers or a shortage of such job seekers at the local level.”

The situation is more complicated than that. Job vacancies may arise from a mismatch between the skills an employer wants and the skills a job seeker has, regardless of educational level.

Still, Statscan’s findings “add important nuance to the discussion about the optimal strategy to use, if any, to alleviate the hiring challenges faced by some employers in Canada,” said the report.

Citing a shortage of workers, the federal government has increased employers’ access to low-wage labor through various decisions, including last year’s expansion of the Temporary Foreign Workers program. Some economists have criticized Ottawa for being too reactive to short-run changes in labor demand that have proven to be fleeting.

The decoder is a weekly feature that breaks down important economic charts.