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Labour Market Insights: Ontario’s Labour Market Trends for September 2021

Commentary

We hear a lot in our media and politics about jobs, unemployment, and wages. But our ability to understand what is actually happening in the labour market—particularly at the regional or local level—can be impeded by lack of access to real-time data. The risk is that businesses, unions, workers, and policymakers are operating a bit in the dark.

Our team at Workforce WindsorEssex has sought to bring light to these questions with WE Data Tools. In a nutshell, WE Data Tools collects job postings from across the web and consolidates, deduplicates, and aggregates them in a searchable database for jobseekers in our region and, increasingly, across the province.

Although the WE Data Tool’s primary purpose is to make job searches easier for jobseekers, a secondary benefit is it can provide rich, real-time data on labour market trends, including which employers are hiring and which jobs are most in-demand.

Using WE Data Tools, workforce planning boards in 24 of 26 regions across Ontario (excluding the City of Toronto and the far north-eastern region) collect job posting data from more than 250 job boards across the web. This aggregated job posting data is then sorted into the National Occupational Classification (or NOC—Canada’s system for classifying occupations, notably the 2016 version) for analysis.

We are pleased to partner with The Hub to produce monthly reports tracking these trends across most of Ontario. Although the data excludes some parts of the province and doesn’t cover the rest of the country, it can illuminate what’s happening in our labour markets on a month-to-month basis.

In the month of September 2021, there were more than 175,000 unique job postings across the 24 regions. The employers and jobs that are most in demand may surprise readers.

According to data collected from unique job postings in September 2021, the 10 most in-demand occupations were (compared to August 2021) as follows:

The 10 most in-demand occupations across 175,000 unique job postings throughout Ontario in August & September 2021. Graphic credit: Janice Nelson

As for which companies were largely responsible for hiring in the month of September 2021, the data mainly illuminates the role of large, well-established employers. The top 10 companies hiring were (compared to August 2021) as follows:

The top 10 companies hiring in Ontario in August & September 2021. Graphic credit: Janice Nelson.

More generally, a temporary spike in unemployment caused by pandemic-induced restrictions masked the labour shortages that we were facing before the pandemic and will continue to have as we exit the pandemic. The data tells us that those shortages are once again were expressing themselves.

Some people have used the pandemic as a time to change careers or reconsider their line of work in exchange for occupations that offer more stable workweeks or carry less risk in a pandemic setting (such as remote office work instead of face-to-face with customers in a restaurant or retail setting). As the pandemic gradually subsides in Ontario, we’re reminded that the major, long-term challenge in the province, and elsewhere, isn’t that there are not enough jobs—it’s that there are too few workers. As fall approaches, many industries will be able to resume business more fully and need to hire new talent. We’ll have to see next month if we see this ongoing trend reflected in another rise in job postings.

For more information about Workforce WindsorEssex and their valuable LMI, please visit workforcewindsoressex.com.

Brian Bird: Pandemic or not, don’t cheapen the Charter and the society it sustains

Commentary

The vaccine mandate chapter of the pandemic has fully arrived in Canada. What began as a trickle in late summer is fast becoming a flood of requirements for Canadians to be vaccinated in order to participate in various activities and sectors of society.

It is troubling to witness governments barely mention the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when they announce these mandates, if they mention it at all. It is also troubling that this behaviour is not new. Governments have largely avoided Charter talk during the pandemic, seemingly for optics and to avoid problems of public perception.

In fairness, this approach is understandably tempting. Lockdowns, quarantines, and other public health measures collectively breach — or at least arguably breach — an assortment of Charter guarantees: freedom of peaceful assembly, mobility rights, religious freedom, and respect for liberty and security of the person according to principles of fundamental justice come quickly to mind.

Strong cases could be made that some of these measures not only breach rights and freedoms in the Charter but lack sufficient justification for doing so. Such measures, in other words, are unconstitutional and therefore illegal.

The hotel quarantine for persons entering Canada by plane was widely criticized for overreach. The ban on worship for several months in British Columbia while many other activities continued in-person was never credibly explained. And using curfews to fight COVID-19, as Quebec did earlier this year, may be far less effective than first meets the eye. Does the virus only come out at certain hours?

Without taking anything away from the tremendous success of the vaccines or from the imperative of getting vaccinated, a strong case could also be made that some of the vaccine mandates in Canada have features which render them unconstitutional as well.

How is it justifiable to require public servants who will not work in the office for the foreseeable future — perhaps not until well into next year — to take an injection or effectively lose their job?

The federal government has announced that its employees must be vaccinated by October 29th. If an employee is not vaccinated, they will be placed on unpaid administrative leave. This mandate applies even if the employee is working from home. How is it justifiable to require public servants who will not work in the office for the foreseeable future — perhaps not until well into next year — to take an injection or effectively lose their job?

As for vaccine mandates for activities such as dining out, a glaring constitutional defect exists if, as is the case in British Columbia, they do not accommodate individuals who cannot be vaccinated for legitimate medical reasons. This segment of the population is small, but that statistic is legally irrelevant. In fact, the negligible number of individuals who would qualify for this exemption makes the refusal to grant it all the more baffling. Even if no one were eligible for this exemption today, it should still be on the books in case someone develops a medical condition which renders them ineligible for vaccination.

Canada is one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, an achievement that will only be sustained once younger Canadians can get the shot. We firmly subscribe to the principle that medical interventions must not be coerced, even indirectly. And we normally do not require vaccination where its necessity is questionable, as seems to be the case for the roughly 1.7 million Canadians who have at least some degree of natural immunity from COVID-19 after recovering from the virus.

With these factors in mind, the legal justification for the patently flawed aspects of the vaccine mandates is tenuous at best. Bluntly put, many vaccine mandates are ripe for constitutional challenge on account of enabling unjust discrimination as well as for denying liberty and security of the person in ways that are overbroad, arbitrary, and unduly coercive.

So far, courts have been deferential when evaluating the constitutionality of state action taken in response to COVID-19. But this posture will not last forever. Telling the court that we are living through a global pandemic does not have the same purchase today as it did nineteen months ago. We have learned a lot in that timespan, and a lot has changed.

Many believe that vaccine mandates are needed to achieve herd immunity or to tackle dire pandemic conditions in certain provinces. To these points, I would say – in keeping with what Gerard Kennedy has written in these pages – that there is a legal mechanism which enables governments to adopt vaccine mandates in a manner that is far more respectful of our supreme law than the current approach.

Governments should use the notwithstanding clause in the Charter to overcome questions about whether these mandates infringe certain Charter rights and freedoms. The imposition of drastic, extraordinary measures that a government believes are demanded by the common good is precisely the sort of rare scenario that the notwithstanding clause is meant to handle.

Acting as if vaccine mandates — as well as other pandemic measures we have endured — are mundane curtailments of fundamental rights is not merely false. It also cheapens these rights, setting a dangerous precedent for their future.

After nearly a year since the worldwide vaccine rollout began, what we have been told about the vaccines from day one has proven to be true. The vaccines are indeed safe and effective. They have even exceeded expectations, holding up against variants that did not exist when they were being developed. With each passing day, almost all the reasons that are cited by those who refuse to take the vaccine lose further traction. Frankly, and with all due respect, many of these reasons were absurd from the start.

But frustrating behaviour by some citizens amid very challenging circumstances does not entitle governments to bulldoze through our supreme law or the fundamental commitments that guard us from becoming a radically different kind of society.

This law and those commitments are not window dressing when things are fine and optional when times are tough. They are always foundational, and always mandatory. And, truth be told, it’s in the difficult moments — in times like the present — that we need the defining features of our society the most.