‘Steady’ hiring climate for new year

Employers looking ahead optimistically, find 4 surveys
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 02/10/2014

With a New year come new outlooks and Canadian employers — and employees — are sounding relatively positive when it comes to hiring expectations, according to four surveys.

Over the last 12 months, companies added jobs in almost every industry — and that trend is expected to continue at a steady pace throughout the new year, according to CareerBuilder North America.

Sixty-two per cent of Canadian companies said they are in a better financial position now than one year ago and 61 per cent expect sales to increase in the first half of the year, found CareerBuilder’s survey of 406 hiring managers.

“A lot of people are seeing job creation as a month-over-month trend over the course of 2013. With the exception of the job report (for December), we’ve been seeing a continuous trend of slow and steady growth within the Canadian economy,” said Mark Bania, Toronto-based managing director for Canada at CareerBuilder.ca.

“We’re not hearing as much negative thoughts as we do in some other areas of the world.”

A better financial position to start and increased sales going into the first six months of the year are leading to a lot of employers feeling 2014 will add more jobs than the last 12 months, said Bania.

“The outlook is extremely strong. I look at all the data and I see nothing that raises alarm bells, I see nothing that diminishes my confidence. If anything, I see that we’re poised for more growth this year than last and, if all goes to plan, 2015 could be continued growth again,” he said.

“The fact that the global economy and our neighbours down south are looking to have a relatively good outlook for next year in no way, shape or form hurts us, so it’s nice to see there’s a lot more confidence.”

Some of the more popular positions employers are recruiting for include customer service (38 per cent), information technology (37 per cent), research and development (31 per cent) and sales (30 per cent), found CareerBuilder.

And 61 per cent of companies plan to hire contract or temporary workers over the next 12 months, with 45 per cent planning to transition some temporary employees into full-time, permanent staff.

“Regardless of how you slice it, the outlook is very strong across the board,” said Bania.

However, nearly two in five employers said they currently have positions for which they can’t find qualified candidates, with 38 per cent saying these positions go unfilled for three months or longer, found CareerBuilder.

But 55 per cent of employers plan to train people who don’t have experience in their industry or field and hire them in 2014. And 36 per cent are sending current employees back to school to get an advanced degree — and picking up all or part of the cost.

Employees optimistic, finds BMO

Twice as many workers expect their companies will increase rather than decrease the size of their workforce (43 per cent versus 21 per cent), according to a BMO Commercial Banking survey of 1,004 Canadians.

Employees in the Atlantic provinces are most optimistic, with 47 per cent expecting more hires, followed by Alberta and the Prairies (46 per cent each) and Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia (39 per cent each).

B.C. is most pessimistic, with 28 per cent of respondents there expecting staff reductions, followed by Quebec (21 per cent), Ontario and Alberta (19 per cent each), the Prairies (18 per cent) and the Atlantic provinces (16 per cent).

Employees also rate hiring and training as a higher priority than upgrading or purchasing new equipment and technology (44 per cent versus 41 per cent), found the survey.

However, business owners’ priorities are reversed, with 26 per cent planning to invest in equipment or technology compared to 19 per cent that plan to invest in employee hiring and training, according to a separate BMO survey of 301 Canadian business owners.

“Business owners want to ensure their existing workforce is being utilized in the most optimal manner and part of that… is ensuring they have the right tools, the right equipment, the technology at their fingerprints so that they can be doing their jobs in the most effective manner, and most efficient,” said John Knotek, vice-president of commercial banking at BMO Bank of Montreal in Toronto. But there is a disconnect, he said.

“Employees see a relatively strong environment — we’ve got a low interest rate environment, real estate is still doing well, the stock markets have done well, the U.S. economy is starting to come back — so these are media tidbits that employees hear in their day-to-day goings-on. Business owners, by natural orientation, (have a) more cautiously optimistic outlook, cautious more so on employee hirings because when they’re typically hiring more employees, that’s for the very long term and they want to make sure that they are optimizing their existing workforce to the absolute maximum before they take on more staff.”

Steady hiring, says Manpower

Canadian employers expect a “steady” hiring climate for the first quarter of 2014, according to a Manpower survey. A net employment outlook, with seasonal variations removed, of 12 per cent is a two percentage point increase compared to the previous quarter and relatively stable compared to the outlook reported last year.

Thirteen per cent of employers plan to increase payrolls in the first quarter, eight per cent anticipate cutbacks and 78 per cent expect to maintain current staffing levels, found the survey of more than 1,900 employers.

“Going into the new year, employers tend to be a little more conservative with their hiring. You don’t really tend to come right out of the gate, you tend to hold a bit…. So when we see a quarterly outlook that indicates a two percentage point increase from the previous quarter, that shows a nice, positive indication to us,” said Michelle Dunnill, branch manager at ManpowerGroup in Toronto.

“Our survey certainly does show a pretty positive hiring climate.”

An outlook of 12 per cent is comparable to the forecasts for the first quarters of 2011, 2012 and 2013 (13 per cent each) but not yet near the rates seen a few years ago (16 per cent in 2006, 2007 and 2009).

“When we look at the same time last year, we literally are a one percentage point decrease. Some could say technically it’s a decrease but obviously it’s steady, it’s not a not positive standing by any means,” she said.

Employers in Western Canada expect the most favourable hiring climate, reporting a net employment outlook of 17 per cent. Ontario and Atlantic Canada expect a modest hiring pace, at eight per cent, while employers in Quebec reported an outlook of one per cent.

The sectors expected to see the highest net employment outlook include construction (16 per cent), manufacturing-durables and the wholesale and retail trade (both 14 per cent), education (13 per cent) and finance, insurance and real estate (12 per cent). Transportation and public utilities and mining (both five per cent) and manufacturing-non-durables (six per cent) bottom out the list.

Cautious optimism, finds Randstad

Canadian workers are entering 2014 with a cautiously optimistic outlook for the job market and economy overall this year, according to a survey released by Randstad.

Three in 10 respondents (30 per cent) said they feel more confident in the strength of the Canadian economy heading into 2014 than they were entering 2013, while another 50 per cent said they feel about the same amount of confidence.

Respondents working in a managerial or executive position are more confident (30.3 per cent) than their below-manager counterparts (19.2 per cent).

Younger workers (under the age of 35) are also more confident in the job market this year (30.5 per cent) than those who are well into their careers (aged 35 to 54, at 21.9 per cent), found the Randstad Canada Labour Trends Study. Younger workers are also more likely to look for a new job in 2014 — 46.5 per cent intend to look this year, compared to 31 per cent overall.

But one-third of all respondents said they expect it will be more difficult to find a new job in 2014 than it was in 2013.

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