‘Given the stakes involved in urgent care, the acute lack of candidate interest is troubling’
Job vacancies in nursing soared 77 per cent from the second quarter of 2015 to the second quarter of 2019, outpacing the growth of job vacancies in the economy, according to Statistics Canada.
The proportion of nursing job openings that were vacant for at least 90 days also rose to 26 per cent in 2019 compared to 21 per cent in 2015, according to the job site Indeed. This holds true even though the unemployment rate in the profession was at just 0.9 per cent over the past 12 months, says Brendon Bernard, an economist at Indeed Hiring Lab.
“Jobseeker interest in nursing roles is increasingly lagging demand. In 2016 and 2017, these jobs usually received about half the clicks of a typical posting, indicating hiring difficulties were already present. However, the gap has widened since then. By mid-2019, postings for nurses were getting just 35 per cent of the clicks of the average Indeed job ad.”
In particular, job seekers are less likely to click on postings for high-pressure registered nursing roles in intensive care units and emergency rooms — such as private duty nurse (six per cent), registered nurse - ICU (11 per cent) and registered nurse - emergency room (12 per cent) — compared to clicks on average job posting from August 2018 to July 2019.
“The combination of expanding opportunities and lagging interest makes for a growing challenge to fill these positions,” says Bernard. “Given the stakes involved in urgent care, the acute lack of candidate interest is troubling."
According to Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey in October, the nursing wage premium — the ratio of average hourly earnings in nursing occupations relative to the typical Canadian job — dropped by four per cent in 2016, after jumping to 48 per cent in 2011 from 36 per cent in 2000.
The unique structure of the nursing labour market helps explain why wages haven’t responded to the challenging hiring environment, says Bernard.
“Four out of every five Canadians employed in nursing are covered by a union or collective bargaining agreement, and public funding levels appear to be a more important factor determining wages than competition for workers. Meanwhile, the fiscal outlooks of provincial governments responsible for most health-care spending are generally bleak.”.
The number of regulated nursing graduates was relatively flat from 2012 to 2017 at roughly 20,000 per year, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, says Bernard.
“This poses a difficult trade-off for provincial governments. On the one hand, lagging wage growth for nurses might be contributing to hiring difficulties to the extent it’s reduced entry into the field or made it harder to retain workers. On the other hand, the Parliamentary Budget Office identifies rising health-care spending as the key challenge threatening provincial governments’ long-term fiscal sustainability.”