Skip to main content

Job vacancies for Canadian nurses have risen substantially in recent years, but employment growth has tapered off, resulting in a labour shortage that “shows no signs of easing” as the country gets older, a new report finds.

The number of nurses per 10,000 Canadian adults has stagnated at roughly 113 since 2016, after a period of robust growth, according a report by hiring site Indeed Canada. It found the slowdown has taken place in most provinces and coincides with tepid wage growth for nursing positions relative to the broader labour market.

“It seems that nursing has been bypassed by the jobs pickup in the rest of the economy,” said Brendon Bernard, economist at Indeed Canada, in the report.

Story continues below advertisement

That’s not for lack of demand. Nursing job vacancies have risen 77 per cent since the second quarter of 2015, outpacing the overall rate of openings, Statistics Canada data show.

But those positions are staying vacant longer, the Indeed report points out. At the outset of 2016, 21 per cent of nursing vacancies over the past year had been open for at least 90 days. By the second quarter of 2019, that had risen to 26 per cent.

Moreover, Indeed found there is waning interest in nursing job postings on its site. In 2016 and 2017, nursing jobs received about half the clicks of a typical posting; by mid-2019, it had dropped to 35 per cent.

“The combination of expanding opportunities and lagging interest makes for a growing challenge to fill these positions,” Mr. Bernard wrote. “Job seeker interest in nursing is particularly low relative to demand in smaller provinces and for certain specialized roles, most notably in urgent care.”

(As part of its analysis, Indeed used Statistics Canada data on professional occupations in nursing, which include registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses, along with nursing co-ordinators and supervisors.)

Despite labour shortages, wages have not responded in a powerful way. In 2011, average hourly earnings for nursing occupations were 48 per cent higher than for the typical Canadian job. But the nursing wage premium has since ebbed to 36 per cent, or roughly where it stood in 2000, according to the report.

Mr. Bernard noted that most of those in nursing occupations are in unions or covered by collective bargaining agreements, and that “public funding levels appear to be a more important factor determining wages than competition for workers.” He added that “nursing’s pay premium could remain under pressure due to fiscal constraints” at the provincial level.

Story continues below advertisement

Health-care spending is widely projected to increase substantially in the coming years as more Canadians head into retirement, putting a strain on provincial finances. Given the demographic shift, considerably more nurses are needed. Employment and Social Development Canada projects there will be nearly 160,000 openings for registered nurses between 2017 and 2026, and that this occupation’s employment will grow the most of any other in total numbers.

“So far, this forecast has missed the mark,” Mr. Bernard said.

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.

Related topics

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies