Statistics Canada said Thursday that the number of job vacancies across Canada hit an all-time high in March, ending a five-month decline.
The agency said employers were seeking to fill more than a million positions in early March, up 186,000 positions or 22.6 percent from February and 382,000 or 60.5 percent from the previous year.
The non-seasonally adjusted job vacancy rate, which measures the number of vacancies as a proportion of all positions, stood at 5.9 per cent in March, which corresponds to a record high in September 2021.
Vacancies in housing, food services and retail increased by more than a third while there were record vacancies in health care, social support and construction.
Employers in the housing and food services sector were looking to fill 158,000 positions, with a vacancy rate of 12.8 per cent, the highest among all sectors for the 11th consecutive month.
109,000 retail positions were available and 154,000 vacancies were recorded in health care and 82,000 in construction.
Job vacancies were in all provinces, with the largest increase in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Prior to March, job vacancies had fallen for five consecutive months due to seasonal patterns, with increased economic activity driving higher demand for labor.
A record-low unemployment rate of 5.3 percent and a record high 88.6 percent labor force participation rate resulted in an average of 1.2 unemployed people for each job vacancy in March, up from 1.4 in February and 2.6 in March 2021.
The proportion was lowest in Quebec and British Columbia and highest in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Meanwhile, average weekly earnings rose 0.9 per cent from February and 4.3 per cent on a year-on-year basis, more than double the growth seen a month ago. The Consumer Price Index rose 6.7 per cent in March from March 2021.
Statistics Canada also said that the number of people working in retail exceeded its pre-pandemic level for the first time in March.
Retail jobs outpaced 9,600 jobs by 0.7 percent or 14,800 positions since February 2020, where things were in February 2020.
Employment in the sector was equal to or greater than two years ago in all provinces except Ontario and Manitoba, which were less than 5,400 and 2,100 positions, respectively, where they were before the massive layoffs from the COVID-19 pandemic .
More than half of the sub-sectors in the retail sector reported growth in payroll employment in March, led by food and beverage (up 7,400 jobs) and clothing and accessories stores (up 3,300).
Grocery store employment was up 2.8 percent from its pre-pandemic level in March, but beer, wine and liquor store jobs were down 5.1 percent, or 2,600, from their level in February 2020.
Overall, the agency said employment rose 118,000, or 0.7 percent, to 17.3 million between February and March as public health measures were eased and capacity limits were generally lifted.
Gains were driven by the services sector, with seven provinces seeing growth led by Quebec, which reopened bars, taverns and casinos on February 28.
All provinces, except Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador, exceeded pre-pandemic levels in March.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 26, 2022.