Maybe don't quit your job just yet — it's getting harder for people to find new ones

Victoria Wells: The Great Resignation — and the rage applying that followed in its wake — might now be well and truly over

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Though some workers are still itching to quit their jobs in search of a higher paycheque, the Great Resignation — and the rage applying that followed in its wake — might now be well and truly over.

Fewer people are switching jobs these days, Statistics Canada said in its labour force survey released Sept. 8, with the job-changing rate, or the number of workers who quit for new positions, at 0.4 per cent in August. That number is off its peak of 0.8 per cent in January 2022, and lower than the pre-pandemic average of 0.7 per cent from 2017 to 2019. “Reduced ‘labour market churn’ means job seekers may be facing more difficulty finding new work,” the agency said.

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Postings for jobs have been sliding for months on hiring site Indeed Canada, according to senior economist Brendon Bernard. Job ads had fallen 23 per cent as of Aug. 25 compared to the same period last year, and they’re 29 per cent off their May 2022 peak. Expect more where that came from, too. “There’s no sign of the downtrend abating,” Bernard said in a Sept. 6 report.

job change rate

Hiring is also down, TD Economics director and senior economist James Orlando said in an assessment of the August jobs numbers on BNN Bloomberg last Friday. Statistics Canada said the economy added 40,000 jobs, but population growth of 103,000 outstripped those gains. Self-employment rose by 50,000 workers, amid a decline in private employment.

“If you look at where the job gains are, most of it was in self-employed, and that’s a really hard number to measure,” Orlando said. “If you look at businesses hiring, businesses actually shed workers over the month of August.”

Add to that a marked decline in job vacancies, which were down to 753,400 in June, the lowest figure in two years and well off the record of around a million in 2022, and it appears things are becoming much trickier for workers wanting to make a career change.

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Job vacanices chart

Still, the number of employed Canadians looking to make a leap is not small, with four in 10 already looking for or planning to find a new job by year-end, according to research from recruiter Robert Half Inc. Of those contemplating a change, 67 per cent are gen-Zers, 41 per cent are in marketing or creative professions, 51 per cent are parents and 56 per cent have been with their employer for the past two to four years.

Most say the hunt for a bigger paycheque is driving their job search, which is not surprising given the higher cost of living continues to squeeze pocketbooks. The good news is that wages were up 4.9 per cent month over month in August, which is above the rate of inflation — for now.

There are signs employers have started pulling back on offering big wage hikes. For example, small business owners surveyed by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in August said they planned smaller wage increases of 2.5 per cent, much lower than the peak of 3.6 per cent in 2022. Advertised wages in job postings on Indeed also declined to less than four per cent in July, down 5.3 per cent from their high in 2022. “Both trends in job postings, and their advertised wages, suggest wage growth is set to cool,” Bernard said. “This likely isn’t great news for job seekers’ conditions.”

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It may also be more proof that the balance of power is tipping back to employers after being in the hands of employees for so long. The side-effect is that it could soon become less necessary for bosses to offer coveted, full-time remote-work positions to woo new hires. That might already be happening. The share of people who only work from home is dropping, sliding to 13.6 per cent in August, down 3.2 percentage points from a year earlier, Statistics Canada said. Meanwhile, hybrid work ticked up by only 1.7 percentage points.

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Bank of Canada policymakers and many of the analysts who follow them think the labour market is in the process of rebalancing. That means those dreaming of clinching a new position may find they’re forced to stay put, at least for now.

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A version of this story was first published in the FP Work newsletter, a curated look at the changing world of work. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.

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