What kind of jobs make the Canadian economy tick? While the general perception is that the growth in Canada’s economy is largely due to the success of oil and gas-related jobs, a closer look at city-by-city data makes it clear that there is a wide range of high-paying occupations adding a considerable number of jobs.
Recently the EMSI blog got national attention by looking into the Canadian job market and discovering that, since 2009, much of Canada’s economy has been powered by jobs that earned more than $30 an hour. Many were quick to ask what kind of jobs those were, and we were curious ourselves. What we found was encouraging. When we looked at the growth of jobs in that earnings category in 10 of Canada’s largest cities, from 2009 to 2013, the results looked like this:
It’s no surprise that Calgary has been able to attribute 43% of its job growth to high-wage jobs; oil and gas, after all. But if this only has to do with that, why is Edmonton at the low end of the scale? And why are the three leaders Regina, Hamilton, and Toronto – none of which are noted as world leaders in mining or drilling? We looked closer to find the five high-earning occupations that have added the most jobs since 2009 in those 10 cities.
While it isn’t growing as fast as it was a decade ago, Vancouver remains a boom town in something of a real estate bubble – the kind of rapid development that leads to a lot of new jobs for civil, mechanical, and electrical engineers. It’s also a tech hub, so the number of IT jobs isn’t surprising. Combine those leaders with Vancouver’s role as a commerce center, which explains the large number of new managers, and the five occupations on this list make a lot of sense.
Ah, Calgary – the city oil and gas built. It’s no surprise to see engineers at the top of this list, too; it takes a lot of engineering muscle to build an oil boom. The same goes for trades supervisors, as well as technical inspectors and regulatory officers. Sales and marketing managers, too, could be tied to the oil industry. The most stable growth is probably from nurses; whatever may happen to the oil industry, Calgary’s growing population will still need health care.
Where Calgary is the brains of the oil industry, Edmonton is the muscle; thus the high ranking for the inspectors, construction managers, and pipefitters needed to actually build infrastructure. But the huge growth in computer pros is also interesting, both for Edmonton and as part of a nationwide trend we’ll look at again later.
Regina, a small city, has put up high growth percentages across the board from relatively small actual numbers. Nurses are important again, as Canada’s health care infrastructure races to keep up with the needs of the population. Teachers, too, suggest the normal growth marks of an expanding population. Only auditors and accountants suggest that business growth, rather than population expansion, is responsible for Regina’s development.
Winnipeg has similar numbers to Regina. But here the non-nursing occupations have a more professional angle, with engineers leading the rest of the pack and business managers and lawyers nipping at their heels.
Auditors and accountants have the highest growth in Hamilton, the only city we looked at where that was the case. It was also the only city we saw where police officers and firefighters factored into the top five. Nurses and engineers made another reliable appearance too.
Canada’s biggest city put up unsurprisingly large growth numbers, led by computer and information systems professionals. Interesting to see high growth from college and vocational instructors, who snuck in at fifth place. Administration managers and accountants aren’t surprising at all, given Toronto’s role as Canada’s finance capital.
Unsurprisingly, high-wage growth in the nation’s capital comes from policy workers, lawyers, and public relations professionals. It’s more interesting to see the growth of sales, advertising, and marketing managers, and business service professionals, which seem more likely to be related to the private sector.
The runaway leader in Montreal is computer and information systems professionals – a trend EMSI already dissected here.
Quebec City, too, is led by computer professionals. But it has some interesting and unique occupations as well. For one thing, it’s the only appearance in our study by physicians and dentists – noteworthy, especially in the absence of nurses. It’s also interesting to see that, yet again, school teachers have found their way onto the list despite the widespread perception that there are no jobs for teachers.
Finding the National Trends
A few things leap out of this data. First, it was fascinating to notice the similarities between Canada’s main metropolitan economies. While recent research pieces we’ve done on the main cities in the US tended to find wide differences between various economies, the most-increased high-wage occupations in Canada’s cities often came from one of a small group of categories:
- Civil, mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineers (in five cities)
- Nurse supervisors and registered nurses (in five cities)
- Computer and information systems professionals (in five cities)
- Auditors, accountants, and investment professionals (in four cities)
Nurses are a controversial category to discuss in a report on job growth in Canada. After all, stories about layoffs are frequent, and we all know at least one person who can’t seem to get a job as a nurse despite their training. But that degree may itself be the problem. To get to the bottom of this seeming contradiction we used EMSI’s education data to compare the number of program completions in nursing-related disciplines at Canada’s public schools to the number of new jobs available for prospective nurses.
New Nursing Program Completions vs. Nursing Jobs Added – 2010 and 2011
That’s an enormous gap. Even if 50% of those majors are used for other career paths, that would still leave a big discrepancy between the number of qualified nurses and the number of jobs available. And in a tightly connected relationship like that between nursing degrees and nursing jobs, the odds of those degrees finding careers in other fields are slim. There are jobs for newly trained registered nurses – but only for the lucky ones.
Second, it’s worth pointing out that few of these occupations are directly associated with oil and gas. The main exception is civil, mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineers, which are the leading growth category in Calgary. Even in Calgary, though, the majority of those jobs are only indirectly connected to oil and gas; 52% of the jobs held by these engineers were at engineering and architecture firms. The growth of those firms is likely a ripple effect (in part) of the oil boom, but that’s not the same as a direct connection.
While the growth of oil and gas industries in Canada is certainly having a trickle-down effect on the rest of the national economy – a rising tide does raise all boats, after all – it’s simplistic to reduce the growth of the job market to that one cause. There are a wide range of careers available to qualified Canadians, whether they live in Edmonton, Hamilton, or Montreal.