There has been a lot of talk lately about both a labour shortage in Canada as well as a stubbornly high unemployment rate. Part of this is caused by the fact that the available workers aren’t always located where the open jobs are.

With unemployment rates at around 4%, Alberta and Saskatchewan can’t find the people they need to hire, while Newfoundland has an 11% unemployment rate, and people are hungry for jobs.

So it comes as good news that the number of Canadians migrating between provinces for jobs has hit its highest level in almost twenty-five years, according to a new report released today by BMO Economics.

The study ranks the attractiveness of Canada’s regional labour markets as a destination to see where most people are targeting, and why.

Unsurprisingly, it turns out the majority of people relocating for job prospects are choosing to head west. Most of the top cities and regions for labour market attractiveness are in Saskatchewan and Alberta, with Regina coming out on top.

The top five destinations:

  • Regina
  • Calgary
  • Edmonton
  • Saskatoon
  • Hamilton

This ranking is calculated by comparing the median income, job prospects, housing affordability and tax burden of 19 cities or regions across Canada. Based on these criteria, the Atlantic provinces, London and Montreal make the least attractive prospects to move to for work right now.

“While there are winners and losers, a mobile labour force isn’t necessarily a bad thing to the extent that resources are directed to where they are needed most,” said Robert Kavcic, Senior Economist, BMO Capital Markets.

“In terms of attractiveness as place to move for work, Regina and Calgary top the list, with the highest median levels of employment income, among the lowest jobless rates and relatively low tax burdens,” said Kavcic. “However, Regina’s better housing affordability lifts the city into the top spot.”

The median income in Regina is $70,500, while in Calgary it’s $79,300. By comparison, in Toronto it’s $68,700 and in Montreal the median income is $53,900. The average house in Regina costs $311,400, while in Toronto they pay an average of $517,600 for a home.

The BMO report shows that most of the migrants are coming from British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. Proportionally, however, the biggest drain is in Atlantic Canada, where combined annual outward migration has reached 11,000 people, or 0.5 per cent of the overall population.

Alberta and Saskatchewan both have unemployment rates that are around 4% right now, well below the national average of 6.9% and the considerably higher 7.5% in Quebec and Ontario, and double digits out East.

There are distinct advantages to relocating for work. People who are willing to move have far more opportunities available to them than those simply scanning the local job market.

They can also give their career a head start by going to where the jobs are rather than having to struggle through periods of underemployment while waiting for the hiring climate in their region to bounce back.


Peter Harris
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