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Job Vacancy

Job vacancy broadly refers to an unfilled position within an organization for which the employer is looking to hire. Labour demand is commonly defined as the sum of met demand (i.e. number of employed) and unmet demand (i.e. number of job vacancies).

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Definitions and Sources

The number of job vacancies is estimated from employer surveys. In Canada, several institutions collect and disseminate information on job vacancies. Note that the definition of a vacancy varies across surveys and other sources. Increasingly, job vacancies are estimated from online job posting data. In both cases - employer surveys and online data - the aim is to estimate the level and composition of unmet labour demand in Canada.

Statistics Canada

The Job Vacancy and Wage Survey (JVWS) is the primary data source by which Statistics Canada measures job vacancy levels and rates. Statistics Canada also used to produce vacancy estimates via the Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH), but the vacancy component of this survey has been discontinued since October 2019.

Job Vacancy and Wage Survey

The Job Vacancy and Wage Survey (JVWS) was introduced in February 2015 to produce more localized vacancy estimates, as well as vacancy rates by detailed National Occupational Classification (NOC) codes. The JVWS directly surveys 100,000 locations every quarter.

Vacancy Defintion in JVWS

The number of vacant jobs on the first day of the month and those that will become vacant during the month. A job is vacant if it meets all three of the following conditions:

  • it is vacant on the reference date (first day of the month) or will become vacant during the month;
  • there are tasks to be carried out during the month for the job in question; and
  • the employer is actively seeking a worker outside the organization to fill the job.

A detailed comparison of the JVWS and the vacancy component of the SEPH (the JVS) can be found on Statistics Canada’s website here.

The JVWS is a good source for job vacancy levels and composition by industry, occupation and economic region. Specialists agree that JVWS is the preferred source for evaluating current vacancy levels at a local, granular level. Indeed, JVWS’s sample was designed to provide information on vacancy by economic regions and occupations.

In addition, JVWS uses a broader definition to better capture vacancies. First, the restriction on the date of the start of work is dropped. Second, newly created positions (for which there are tasks to be carried out) are included. Third, the flow of forthcoming vacancies (i.e. the total number of positions that will become vacant during the upcoming month) is added to the existing stock at the time of data collection.

Finally, those who complete the survey are more likely to be directly responsible for human resources and the survey is conducted at the location level (i.e. all company locations are surveyed).

As with all surveys, the JVWS has some limitations. Mainly, JVWS estimates are less timely than those of SEPH since they are produced quarterly and published approximately three months after the reference period.

Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours

The Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours (SEPH) is a monthly survey of employers. Its estimates are produced by a combination of a census of payroll deductions, provided by the Canada Revenue Agency, and the Business Payrolls Survey (BPS), a mandatory survey of private businesses conducted since 1983. In 2011, the BPS was expanded to include the Job Vacancy Statistics (JVS) component and data have been available on a monthly basis ever since. However, the JVS component of the SEPH is now discontinued.

Vacancy Definition in SEPH

The number of vacant jobs on the last day of the month. A job is vacant if it meets all three of the following conditions:

  • a specific position exists;
  • work could start within 30 days; and,
  • the employer is actively seeking a worker from outside the organization to fill the position.

The SEPH directly surveys 15,000 establishments monthly. Each establishment remains in the survey for twelve consecutive months. Every month one-twelfth of the sample (1,250 businesses) is replaced with new respondents, except for those establishments unrepresented by other units.

The SEPH is a good source for job vacancy levels and composition by industry and by province. Specialists agree that SEPH is the preferred source for tracking the evolution of vacancy levels due to its longevity (dating back to 2011), its timeliness (monthly data released only two months after the reference period), and its stability (due to the slow rotation of the sample, with 1/12 being replaced each month). As noted above, however, the JVS component of the survey has been discontinued and the last release was in November 2019.

As with all surveys, the SEPH has some limitations. First, its small sample size limits the localness of vacancy estimates. Second, the respondents (typically people with payroll responsibilities) are not ideally suited to answer questions about vacancies. Finally, SEPH was not designed to collect information on occupations; as a result, it does not contain a breakdown by National Occupational Classification (NOC).

Provincial Vacancy Sources

The Alberta Wage and Salary Survey is conducted every two to three years. The survey covers about 7,000 businesses in Alberta drawn from an InfoCanada business list stratified by industry and employer size using Canadian Business Patterns. The survey is mainly used to publish job vacancy rates by occupation and economic region in Alberta.

Vacancy Definition in the Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

A job unfilled for over four months.

The Enquête sur le recrutement, l’emploi et les besoins de formation dans les établissements du Québec (EREFQ; in French only) is conducted ad-hoc by Emploi-Québec. It collects information on jobs vacant for over four months. In the 2014-2015 edition, it covered about 40,000 businesses in Quebec drawn from the Emploi-Québec Registry of businesses. The survey is a good source for information on job vacancy levels and shares by occupation, industry, economic regions and Montreal. The survey also estimates forthcoming departures (e.g. retirements), difficulties in filling vacancies, recruitment and training practices and needs.

Vacancy Definition in the EREFQ

Job unfilled at the time of data collection (2015).

The Saskatchewan Wage Survey was conducted approximately every two years between 2002 and 2013; it was suspended with the introduction of the JVWS. The survey covered about 7,000 businesses in Saskatchewan. The survey was a good source for information on job vacancy levels and shares by occupation in the province.

Private Sources

Several industry groups and federations conduct their own vacancy surveys. Notably, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) publishes quarterly estimates of job vacancies in Your Business Outlook Survey. The data collected include jobs unfilled for over four months due to difficulty in finding applicants. The survey covers about 2,000 CFIB members each quarter. It is always open to CFIB members, but an invitation is sent to a rotating random sample at the beginning of each month. The survey is a good source for information on the evolution of job vacancy levels and shares by industry, province and business size.

The main drawback of this survey is its potential lack of representativeness since its sample is drawn from CFIB membership instead of a national or provincial business registry. As a result, CFIB estimates that its sample accurately reflects only small and mid-sized businesses (SMEs), with a bias towards more established firms and slightly "larger" SMEs.

Online Job Posting Data

Online job postings may be used as a proxy for the number of job vacancies. Data on job postings are retrievable directly from job boards or through web scraping services.

Job Postings Definition

A job posting is the advertisement of a job vacancy online or on another platform. It is thus different from a job vacancy. An employer may have a vacancy but not post it online (using other methods of recruitment). Conversely, a job posting may be unrelated to a job vacancy; for example, when employers are building a bank of potential candidates.

Job Boards

Information posted on job boards is typically only accessible to the organization administrating the board. Private job boards such as Indeed, Monster and LinkedIn collect job postings and produce in-house datasets and analyses (see the LMI Insight Report on skills in-demand according to LinkedIn data).

Some government job boards, such as Employment and Social Development Canada's (ESDC) Job Bank and Emploi-Québec’s Placement en ligne, are used to retrieve labour market indicators.

ESDC maintains the pan-Canadian Job Bank, an online portal for job postings. The database, updated monthly, includes information on each posting such as occupation and level of education sought as well as the employer (location, industry, etc.). The database is not accessible to the public but is shared with Canadian government partners.

Emploi-Québec operates a portal for job postings called Placement en ligne. The database is not accessible to the public but is shared with Québec government partners.

Web Scraping

Private vendors scan job boards, corporate websites and other job posting sources to collect, clean and organize these data. Typically, data from web-scraped job postings are not publicly accessible and must be purchased from the vendors. Major job posting web scraping firms include Vicinity Jobs, Burning Glass and Gartner (previously Wanted Analytics). Several jurisdictions use these private sources to access timely, local data on job vacancies or to power their own provincial job board (e.g. Explore Careera Nova Scotia).

Postings from job boards and web scraping are a good source of information on timely (near real time) job vacancy characteristics by occupation and job requirements at the local level. Since the data is based on natural language used by employers, it can provide insight into skills and other job characteristics.

Since online data are not typically accompanied by information on data quality and usability, caution must be taken in using it. Unlike data collected through a survey, the user cannot tell if the data are representative of the job market as a whole. A number of studies have shown that larger employers, as well as certain fields such as information technology and health, are over-represented.

Online sources present new data quality challenges, including classifying information correctly and suppressing duplicate postings. Since most of this information is privately owned, an ongoing purchasing agreement with the private organization would be required to use it. Moreover, due to privacy legislation, the legality of web scraping varies from country to country. Generally, web scraping may violate the terms of use of some websites, who may disallow access, but the enforceability of these terms is unclear.

 

Overview of Definitions and Sources

SEPH (BPS) JVWS Alberta Wage and Salary Survey EREFQ CFIB Job Postings
Frequency Monthly Quarterly Biennial or Triennial Triennial Quarterly Daily
Sample Size 15,000 100,000 6,702 in 2017 39,586 in 2014 - 2015 2194 in Q3 2018 N/A
Survey Population

  • Businesses with 1 or more employees
  • Establishment

  • Businesses with 2 or more employees
  • Location

Businesses with at least 10 (Calgary & Edmonton) or 5 (rest of Alberta) Employees Businesses with 5 or more employees CFIB members (about 110,000 nationwide) Job posted online on corporate websites and job boards
Coverage Excludes agriculture, international public administration, private households, fishing and trapping, and military personnel Excludes religious organizations, private households, federal and provincial territorial administrations, international and other extraterritorial public administrations Alberta Only Quebec Only

  • Excludes all non-CFIB members
  • Excludes public administration

  • Excludes all vacancies not advertised online
  • Counts one vacancy per posting (even if several positions are offered)

Vacancy Definition

  • Specific position exists
  • Work could start within 30 days
  • Employer is actively seeking a worker from outside the organization

  • Vacant on the first day of the month or will become vacant during the month
  • Tasks to be carried out during the month
  • Employer is actively seeking a worker from outside the organization

Job unfilled for over four months Job unfilled at the time of data collection (for 2015) Job unfilled for over four months because the employer has been unable to find suitable candidates  Job posted online
Estimators Historical trend for:

  • Vacancy levels and shares by industry and province
  • Vacancy rate by industry and province

Current level for:

  • Vacancy levels and shares by industry, occupation and economic region
  • Vacancy rate (employment from SEPH)

Current level for:

  • Vacancy levels and shares by industry, occupation and economic region
  • Vacancy rate

Current level for:

Vacancy levels and shares by occupation, industry, economic regions and Montreal

Change in:

Vacancy levels and shares by industry, province and business size

Current and timely estimates for vacancies characteristics at a local level

Data Access

The data discussed in the section above can be accessed through the different channels presented below.

Statistics Canada

 

Data Tables Customized Products Public Use Microdata File (PUMF) Real Time Remote Access (RTRA) Research Data Centre (RDC) Canadian Centre for Data Development and Economic Research (CDER)
Survey of Employment, Payrolls and Hours Several tabulations available Several tabulations available in accordance with confidentiality release criteria Not available Not available Not available Not available
Job Vacancy and Wage Survey Several tabulations available Several tabulations available in accordance with confidentiality release criteria Not available Not available Not available Not available

 

Other Sources

Data Access
Alberta Wage and Salary Survey Data Portal, aggregated data
Enquête sur le recrutement, l’emploi et les besoins de formation dans les établissements du Québec Reports by region, metropolitan region and the province
Your Business Outlook (CFIB) Help Wanted Report and data (by industry, province and business size)

Applications

Labour demand is typically decomposed as the sum of employed individuals (met labour demand) and the number of job vacancies (unmet labour demand).

One key application of job vacancy estimation is the job vacancy rate

Capture

The job vacancy rate represents the percentage of total labour demand (i.e. the sum of vacancies and the number of people employed) that remain unfilled. The job vacancy rate is always greater than one and moves in the same direction as the total number of job vacancies (the greater the number, the larger the number of vacancies).

Up until October 2019, SEPH was the only survey collecting information on both employment and vacancies, providing a unique source of job vacancy rate statistics. JVWS employment estimates are calibrated to correspond to the employment estimates from SEPH (payroll employees). As a result, the job vacancy rate from JVWS uses employment estimates from SEPH for the denominator.

A related indicator of labour market tightness or slack is the unemployment-to-job vacancy ratio.

Screen Shot 2020-04-24 at 12.32.25 PM

The unemployment-to-job vacancy ratio represents the potential labour supply to fill existing vacancies. When the ratio is lower than one, this indicates that there are more job vacancies than the number of unemployed persons. When the ratio is higher than one, there are fewer job vacancies than unemployed people. In cases where high unemployment and high vacancy rates exist simultaneously, evidence for a possible skills shortage may exist. The unemployment-to-job vacancy ratio has been discontinued with SEPH but can be consulted in a Statistics Canada study.

Disambiguation

Job vacancies: Refers to an unfilled position within an organization for which the employer is looking to hire. Vacancies are typically measured through employer surveys.

Job postings: Refers to the advertisement of a job online or on another platform. Some of these job postings are vacancies. The counts and characteristics of job vacancies are thus only partially mirrored in job posting information.

Job openings: Typically used interchangeably with job vacancies. However, in the context of labour market projections (e.g. Canadian Occupational Projection System), job openings refer to a non-observable forecasted variable comprised of expansion and replacement demand.

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