It is a strange aspect of Canada’s pandemic recovery: With a tight labour market and loads of available jobs, why aren’t more people jumping ship to new positions or companies?
In the early months of COVID-19, very few people switched jobs, an understandable reaction to the financial uncertainties posed by the pandemic. But as record sums of Americans started to quit their jobs in 2021 – mostly to secure better positions – Canadians did not follow suit. And that persists until today, despite companies recruiting for about one million positions and the unemployment rate falling to its lowest level in generations.
Statistics Canada said there was “no indication of increased labour market churn” in its latest Labour Force Survey. For instance, the job-changing rate – the proportion of workers who remained employed from one month to the next, but who switched jobs – was 0.6 per cent in July, or slightly below the prepandemic average.
That metric wouldn’t account for someone who quit a job, took a couple months off, then started a new role. Even so, the proportion of workers with a job tenure of six months or less was 13.7 per cent in July – nearly identical to the rate three years earlier. Statscan also pointed to a small decline in people voluntarily leaving their jobs.
There has, of course, been a sizable shift in employment. For example, restaurants and hotels are nowhere close to employing the same volume of people as before COVID-19; many of their workers moved on during lockdowns.
It will be tough to get more information on the job-switchers. Statscan told The Globe that breaking down that group by other characteristics – say, age or educational attainment – would result in poor data quality.
“We have closely investigated this issue internally and have pushed the data to its limit,” spokesperson Kathleen Marriner said by e-mail.
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