Job outlook appears brighter

Fewer people were peddling their resumes at the Central Alberta Career and Job Fair on Tuesday than at previous editions of the twice-annual event.

Nicole Dubé works on a hairdressing model as her colleague Laura O’Hanlon

Nicole Dubé works on a hairdressing model as her colleague Laura O’Hanlon

Fewer people were peddling their resumes at the Central Alberta Career and Job Fair on Tuesday than at previous editions of the twice-annual event.

Charles Strachey, a regional communications manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration, said about 1,650 had stopped by the fair as of 4 p.m. — two hours prior to closing. That was down from the approximately 2,000 people who had stopped in by the same time at the spring fair, which in turn was lower than the two events in 2009.

Nearly 80 exhibitors were on hand to meet with attendees, about three-quarters of which were hiring, said Strachey. Those companies represented virtually all industries, including the oilfield, manufacturing, health care, construction, retail and financial sectors.

Earlier in the day, Manpower Canada released the results of its quarterly survey into the national labour market.

It indicated that 21 per cent of the more than 1,900 Canadian employers polled expect to increase their payrolls in the fourth quarter of 2010, while seven per cent anticipate making cutbacks.

Employers in Western Canada were the most optimistic, followed by those in Atlantic Canada.

Locally, Manpower’s survey revealed a positive hiring climate for the last three months of 2010. It indicated that 33 per cent of employers plan to hire for the upcoming quarter, zero per cent anticipate cutbacks and 65 per cent expect to maintain their current staffing levels. Two per cent were unsure of their hiring intentions.

“Red Deer’s fourth quarter net employment outlook of 33 per cent is a significant increase from the same time last year when employers reported a net employment outlook of two per cent,” said Randy Upright, CEO of Manpower’s Alberta Region. “It is also a 13 percentage point increase from the previous quarter, indicating a bright hiring climate for the upcoming quarter.”

Of the 10 industries surveyed nationally, employers in mining, manufacturing of durable goods and education reported the most positive expectations for the fourth quarter, followed by those in finance, insurance and real estate.

Canada’s mining industry has seen a sharp turnaround from recession on the back of a strong commodities market as demand from China and other rapidly developing countries ramps up.

Canadian miners are also seeing an influx of foreign investors looking to buy into Canadian companies, the most recent of which being a hostile takeover offer for Saskatchewan’s PotashCorp (TSX:POT), the globe’s top potash producer, from Australian mining giant BHP Billiton.

Meanwhile, the industry is facing a skills and labour shortage, and needs to add 100,000 jobs by the end of the decade, says Ryan Montpellier, executive director of the Mining Industry Human Resources Council.

“As the price of commodities remain hot — and they are now above not where they were prior to the recession but certainly above historical averages — mining in Canada is going to continue to be a hotbed for employment, ”he says.

“The need to continue to grow the industry to meet the needs of mostly emerging countries with the raw materials that Canada has (means) we’re going to see a very long mining industry in Canada, for decades.”

The mining industry had been facing a labour shortage as the recession approached. While companies scaled back on hiring and some laid off employees during the downturn, many of them have since been recalled.

“The recession, it cooled the labour market to some extent but it only lasted a quarter or two,” Montpellier said. “…As quickly as it happened, the bounce-back occurred in many cases (just) as quick.”

Canadian mining CEOs have seen their cash bonus payouts rise from 61 per cent of salary in 2009 to 88 per cent in 2010, according to the Pricewaterhouse Coopers 2010 Mining Salary Survey released last week.

A second survey released Tuesday on overall salary projections for the year points toward a slightly more optimistic outlook, with salary freezes down dramatically, but no drastic wage increases either.

Hewitt’s annual salary increase survey indicates that increases in 2010 and 2011 will be bigger than in 2009, but will remain below the three per cent national average seen in the last decade.

The national average in Canada for 2010 was 2.6 per cent and is expected to be 2.9 per cent in 2011, slightly better than projections for the U.S. for 2.4 per cent this year and 2.9 per cent for 2011.

Salary increases for 2010 were highest in Saskatchewan and lowest in B.C and Quebec.

The outlook in the broader job market for the fourth quarter is still muted as 70 per cent of employers surveyed by Manpower expect to maintain current staffing levels and two per cent were unsure of their intentions for the quarter.

Employer hiring sentiment declined steadily during the recession and hit a trough in the third quarter of 2009.

Meanwhile, Manpower, a private-sector company that provides staffing services to employers, predicts “steady” employment in the fourth quarter.

However, economists have warned that Canada’s unemployment rate could remain around eight per cent for some time, as economic growth slows at home and fears of the spread of a double-dip recession in the U.S. trickle across the border.

Overall, Canada’s projected net employment outlook adjusted for seasonal variation — the percentage of employers expecting to hire minus the percentage expecting to downsize — was for a gain of 15 per cent in the quarter. The outlook was far more bleak in the United States, where the net employment outlook was mired at five per cent.

Employers in rapidly developing countries such as India, Taiwan, China and Brazil reported the strongest fourth-quarter hiring plans.

Some of the effect of slower growth could be reflected in Canadian jobs figures for August to be released later this week.

So far this summer, job figures have been mixed, with a whopping 93,000 jobs added in June before a loss of 9,300 in July — the first downturn in job growth since December. July’s losses ratcheted the unemployment rate up 0.1 of a percentage point to eight per cent.

Nearly all of the approximately 400,000 jobs lost during the recession have been recovered after half a year of steady increases, but the unemployment rate remains about two percentage points higher than it was before the start of the 2008-09 recession.

With files from The Canadian Press