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Transportation sector forecast to lead hiring in quarter

A job board in Toronto.

KEVIN VAN PAASSEN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Canadian employers see steady – though not rip-roaring – hiring in the coming quarter, led by optimism in the transportation sector.

Manpower's quarterly employment outlook survey shows a slightly softer climate for hiring in the April-to-June period compared with the previous quarter. Twenty per cent of employers said they plan to increase payrolls in the second quarter, 5 per cent see cutbacks, and 75 per cent expect to maintain current staffing levels. The seasonally-adjusted net outlook of 12 per cent is a one-notch drop from the previous quarter.

The Canadian economy has boosted employment levels in six of the past seven months, including almost 51,000 jobs last month, according to Statistics Canada's labour force survey. The hiring comes even as various other indicators point to slowing economic activity and most economists don't expect last month's pace of hiring to last.

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Employers "are staying steady ... there's not really a lot of movement," said Byrne Luft, Manpower Canada's vice-president of operations. "Employers are still not confident, completely, so they're not making any large investments, which would create employment growth."

Among sectors, employers in transportation and public utilities are most hopeful on hiring, tallying their most upbeat reading in six years. The reason may stem from a weaker Canadian dollar, which is giving a lift to trade and in turn boosting the need for more truck drivers, logistics workers and supply-chain engineers across Canada, he said.

The outlook for construction, especially in the West, and retail trade is also favourable.

The most tepid hiring outlook is in education, where nearly nine of 10 sector employers plan to keep current staffing levels unchanged. Mining has seen a dramatic decline from a year ago – a reflection of weaker commodity prices and a pullback in investments on some projects.

Among regions, employers in the West are once again most optimistic about hiring, while those in Central Canada have the most modest plans to expand staff, the survey of more than 1,900 Canadian employers shows.

Several companies have moved into hiring mode, including Wal-Mart and Green Revolution, a U.S. maker of energy products, Mr. Luft noted.

A mismatch in the labour market between the skills workers have and what employers seek is getting more acute, Mr. Luft said. "We have these individuals who are unemployed, and then this other group, where there's huge demand for workers which those individuals who are unemployed can't fill ... this mismatch is deepening, not only in Canada but globally."

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The best way to tackle the problem would be more incentives to encourage companies to hire apprentices, and to standardize credentials so tradespeople can more easily move from province to province, he said.

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About the Author

Tavia Grant has worked at The Globe and Mail since early 2005, covering topics from employment and currency markets to trade, microfinance and Latin American economies. She previously worked for Bloomberg News in Toronto and Zurich, writing on mining, stocks, currencies and secret Swiss bank accounts. More

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