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Labour Market Insights: Labour market sees gains in retail and other labour market trends in Ontario

Commentary

As readers can deduce, the types of occupations and the employers hiring largely reflect where the province is in terms of the public health measures in place. The month of February 2022 saw two phases of loosening public health measures in Ontario. The first phase, from February 1 through February 16, saw capacity limits for retail, restaurants, and other establishments increased to 50 percent. The second phase, from February 17 to February 28, saw capacity limits in establishments requiring proof of vaccination (restaurants, cinemas, and gyms, for instance) lifted. Further public health measures have been lifted as of March 1, including the elimination of mandatory vaccination passports.

This month, we’re looking at where hiring increased and what we can expect in the coming months as employers look ahead not only to lifted restrictions, but also to warmer weather and an eager, yet likely cautious, customer base.

The following data, courtesy of Workforce WindsorEssex’s unique data source which covers job postings from across the province (excluding the City of Toronto and the far north-eastern region), demonstrates trends in certain occupations and sectors that coincide with relaxed public health measures.https://www.workforcewindsoressex.com/

The ten most in-demand occupations in February 2022 compared to the previous month were as follows:

Graphic credit: Janice Nelson

The top-ten in-demand occupations constitute over one-quarter of all job postings (50,264 job postings or 28.6 percent) in the regions. The number of active job postings increased by 13,976 in February 2022 relative to January 2022 for a total of 175,507, compared to 161,531 active job postings in January. This is an increase of 8.6 percent across the regions for February. This increase in overall active job postings points to employers having the capacity to hire additional workers to accommodate increasing demand as the province further opens.

Looking at Statistics Canada’s employment by industry for the whole of Ontario, Ontario did see some job losses over the previous month, with 7,541,300 total employed, all industries, in February.https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1410038801&pickMembers%5B0%5D=1.37&cubeTimeFrame.startMonth=02&cubeTimeFrame.startYear=2019&cubeTimeFrame.endMonth=02&cubeTimeFrame.endYear=2022&referencePeriods=20190201%2C20220201 This is down 0.1 percent from the previous month’s 7,551,000, but also up 6.1 percent from 7,107,300 in February 2021, up 1.7 percent from 7,414,900 in February 2020, and up 4.7 percent from 7,205,000 in February 2019.

From the above table, we see that active job postings for both Cooks and Food Counter Attendants, Kitchen Helpers, and Related Support Occupations increased in February (up 28.5 percent and 15 percent, respectively, in February relative to January). This would reflect the loosening of public health measures put into place by the province in December and January that impacted the Accommodation and Food Services sector. Clearly, many businesses in this sector are looking ahead and preparing for demand in March and beyond.

According to Statistics Canada, employment in Accommodation and Food Services decreased 0.6 percent in the whole of Ontario in February as compared to January with 359,700 employed in the sector in February and 361,700 in January, although the easing of public health measures is good news for this sector’s rebound. This is up 15.8 percent from 310,600 in February 2021, but still down 18.5 percent from 441,200 in February 2020, and down 17.9 percent from 438,100 in February 2019.https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1410038801&pickMembers%5B0%5D=1.37&cubeTimeFrame.startMonth=02&cubeTimeFrame.startYear=2019&cubeTimeFrame.endMonth=02&cubeTimeFrame.endYear=2022&referencePeriods=20190201%2C20220201

While hiring for Retail and Wholesale Trade Managers was little changed in February from the previous month, we are seeing a jump in active job postings for Retail Salespersons (up 8 percent in February relative to January), indicating it is not just the Accommodation and Food Services sector eager to take advantage of eased public health measures.

Employment for the Wholesale and Retail Trade sector was down slightly in the whole of Ontario in February, according to Statistics Canada, but capacity limits were in place during the month of February. Employment in Wholesale and Retail Trade is up past its pre-pandemic levels but did decrease 0.5 percent in February as compared to January with 1,143,500 employed in the sector in February and 1,149,400 in January. This is up 12.3 percent from 1,018,200 in February 2021, up 4.7 percent from 1,092,500 in February 2020, and up 7.1 percent from 1,068,200 in February 2019.https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1410038801&pickMembers%5B0%5D=1.37&cubeTimeFrame.startMonth=02&cubeTimeFrame.startYear=2019&cubeTimeFrame.endMonth=02&cubeTimeFrame.endYear=2022&referencePeriods=20190201%2C20220201

Interestingly, while the public health measures in place during the month of January and some of February were lifted, including the recommendation to work from home where possible, active job postings for “working remotely” appeared in 1,542 active job postings in February, for an increase of 17.1 percent relative to appearing in 1,317 active job postings in January. This number may decrease in March, however, as some employees are looking for work from home or hybrid working environments, and appealing to that may be an effective strategy for companies to attract and retain talent.

Additionally, the terms “vaccination” or “vaccines” appeared in 25,979 active job postings in February, for an increase of 14.8 percent relative to appearing in 22,633 active job postings in January. Again, this number may decrease as mandatory vaccination passports were phased out in March, but it may also indicate that companies are looking to maintain their own vaccination policies for the time being.

The top-ten companies hiring in February 2022 compared to the previous month were as follows:

Graphic credit: Janice Nelson

While most of the top-ten companies hiring remain unchanged, we do see two new entries on the list for February: Canada Post Corporation and Recipe Unlimited Corporation. The increase in hiring for Canada Post could point to an increase both in the number of goods being shipped and in changing consumer habits with people opting to shop online.

The increase in hiring for Recipe Unlimited (a Full-Service Restaurant company that owns such brands as Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s, and The Keg Steakhouse + Bar) coincides with the increase in active job postings for Cooks and Food Counter Attendants, Kitchen Helpers and Related Support Occupations.

We can also see that the increase in demand for Retail Salespersons can be attributed to companies such as The Home Depot Canada, Loblaws Companies Limited, Walmart Canada, Lowe’s Canada, Shoppers Drug Mart, and Staples Canada Inc.

March’s numbers will more fully reflect the impacts of the loosening of public health measures that were in place throughout February and their subsequent relaxation as of March 1.

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

Malcolm Jolley: Pork, poultry, and Poland’s place in the EU

Commentary

The kabanos sausages at ZM Moscibrody are excellent. Slender as a finger, they taste of tangy smoked cured pork, garlic, salt, and spices. Moscibrody is about an hour or so east of Warsaw, in the flat and intermittently forested Polish countryside. The complex includes a banquet hall, scenic ponds for raising carp, a kind of old-time themed wood-framed medieval village, and a good-sized slaughterhouse and meat packaging plant. The kabanos were part of a spread put out for me and my colleagues at lunch, and I was greedily snacking on them while I waited for the main courses to arrive. We’d seen them being made earlier on our tour of the plant in the morning.

I travelled to Poland last November as a guest of that country’s Union of Producers and Employers of the Meat Industry (UPEMI). I was part of a delegation of Canadian and American journalists invited to learn more about the production and processing of beef and pork in that country, with a view to encouraging exports. The trip was paid for (at least in part, if not in full) by the European Union as part of an ongoing “Meat with European Quality” marketing campaign focused on Polish products. That campaign is part of the larger European Union’s “Enjoy It’s From Europe” worldwide marketing campaign for the promotion of EU agricultural exports. The hope being that more products like the kabanos sausage would make it across the Atlantic to North American markets.

Our delegation was small, with four journalists from each country. Six of us wrote for trade journals that covered everything from supermarkets to hog farming in Alberta, to food engineering. Without a technical audience, my line of inquiry on the trip was to see how the Poles were approaching the EU campaign. On October 7 of last year, the Polish Constitutional Court had ruled that parts of the Treaty on the European Union were incompatible with the country’s constitution,“In a decision that caused a stir in the EU, the Polish constitutional tribunal rejected the primacy of European law over Polish law, sparking a row with Brussels that blocked approval of Warsaw’s economic recovery plan.” https://www.euronews.com/2022/03/10/polish-court-finds-european-human-rights-convention-incompatible-with-constitution and the government of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki seemed to be taking a combative pose towards Brussels, to the extent that some supporters in the Polish press had begun to talk about a “Polexit”.“In the 2003 Polish referendum on joining the EU, 77.6% of voters voted in favor. Poland joined the EU the following year, and since then–according to regular polls conducted by the governmental Centre for Public Opinion Research (CBOS)–no more than a quarter of respondents ever supported leaving, with support gradually waning down to a mere 5% in 2019 and 6% in 2021.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polexit#cite_note-20

The overt premise of the “Meat From Europe” campaign was to remind prospective customers that Polish producers and processors are held to the EU’s strict set of agricultural and food processing standards, including health and safety and animal welfare. Poland joined the EU in 2004. In the fifteen years between then and the fall of the Berlin Wall, Polish producers invested in new plants, precisely to bring standards up to EU compliance. So explained veteran farmer Waldemar Podniesiński, President of ZM Mokobody, a processing plant also due east of Warsaw. A small, family-owned operation, it was established in 1989 to take advantage of new economic freedoms and refurbished in 2004 to comply with EU standards.

When Poland joined the EU in 2004 it elected not to join the Eurozone, and the country has retained the zloty. Implicit, though never explicitly stated, in the promise of “Meat From Europe”, is Western European quality at Eastern European prices. This sounds good for the Polish producers, although Canada is among the world’s top exporters of pork and beef itself, and agricultural products are generally outside the realm of the Canada European Trade Agreement.

While the Polish farmers of the UPEMI hope to benefit from the “Meat with European Quality” campaign, they are not uniformly pleased with the European Union as an institutional body, which they see as increasingly interfering with the way they do business. “EU politicians want to turn Polish farmers into gardeners,” complained UPEMI President and member Wieslaw Rozanski when we met him for dinner.

Poland is, in fact, a relatively large exporter of meat, I learned at the UPEMI annual conference in Warsaw. It’s just that what they mostly export is poultry. Second is pork, but Poland has suffered from outbreaks of Asian swine flu over the last decade or so, aggravated by its relatively high population of wild boar. Still well forested, the wild pigs roam the Polish countryside and carry the disease. Asian swine flu is not dangerous to humans but needs to be aggressively contained by culling to protect herds.

Beef production is much smaller, and the cattle I saw at the Mokobody plant were old dairy cows. They were destined to be turned into Halal meat for the Middle Eastern export market, and the men who worked there were from former Soviet Islamic republics, like Khazakstan and Uzbekistan. Polish export to Islamic markets, I learned from union president Podniesiński, is another source of friction with the EU. Legislators in Strasbourg have threatened to effectively ban Halal slaughter, as it forbids the prior use of a stun gun, which is the standard in conventional processing.“Yet in recent years that lucrative trade has come under political threat, with the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party – and in particular its powerful chairman Jarosław Kaczyński – pushing an animal-protection law that would, among other things, ban ritual slaughter. That legislation has twice been shelved following opposition within PiS itself, marking rare defeats for Kaczyński and highlighting the size, strength and lobbying power of the meat industry. Yet producers remain concerned that they could again come under threat.” https://notesfrompoland.com/2022/02/21/poland-among-europes-leaders-in-kosher-and-halal-meat-despite-uncertainty-around-ritual-slaughter/

Back in Warsaw, at a meeting with the Acting Head of Representation of the European Commission in Poland, Witold Naturski, he explained that whether I had heard some grumbling about the EU or not, since it represented over 70 percent of Polish agricultural exports it was unlikely that relationship was in too much trouble. Mr. Naturski serves as a kind of diplomat and was not going to comment on a Canadian journalist’s wild speculations on Polexit. It became clear to me, by inference, that if the Polish countryside support for the EU, including its Common Agricultural Policy, was strong, then, given the overwhelming support for the EU in urban areas, Poland’s membership was not likely in much peril.

On the two occasions when we left Warsaw for the countryside, we took the main highway out of town going east. The end of that road is Belarus, and we passed a few military vehicles heading that way. At the time, a group of refugees had assembled at the border having been flown there by the Lukashenko regime. The Poles refused them entry, and an international crisis was unfolding.

The implied message of the crisis to the Poles, and their Baltic neighbours, seemed to be “If you like the EU so much, then take in these refugees”, presumably playing on xenophobic fears in the hopes of fomenting more discord among member states. It didn’t seem to be working at the time, and any Pole I spoke to about had no doubt who was behind it: Vladimir Putin.

That crisis seems like a long time ago now that there is a serious one on Poland’s border with Ukraine. Polish membership in the EU today is unquestioned, if it ever really were at all. The courage and the generosity the Poles have shown in their absorption of millions of war refugees is inspiring but not surprising, given their long and bloody history of being under the Russian boot.“Among the two million people who have entered Poland from Ukraine, some have moved on to other countries in the EU, although the majority are believed to be still in Poland. The overall number of refugees who have left Ukraine to neighbouring countries from 24 February onwards is estimated at over 3.2  million.” https://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2022/3/6234811a4/poland-welcomes-million-refugees-ukraine.html

I don’t know if they’re going to export much more meat to Canada or not, but I will look out for kabanos sausage and anything else tasty made in Poland from now on.

The official website for the “Meat From Europe” campaign is https://www.meatfromeurope.eu/.