Agriculture tops unfilled job list

It’s probably not a surprise to farm operators, but the percentage of unfilled jobs in crop production is the highest of any job category in Canada.

Statistics Canada data from the third quarter of 2015 indicates the job vacancy rate for positions in crop production was 6.8 percent.

The second highest job vacancy rate was for jobs at clothing stores, which was 5.4 percent. Third were restaurants, at five percent.

“Because of the seasonal work in agriculture, you would expect it’s more difficult to hire people seasonally because most people (say), ‘I’d like a permanent job,’ ” said Ray Bollman, former chief of Statistics Canada’s Rural Research Group.


Bollman has been sifting through federal data on agriculture and agri-food labour and has published labour market information updates for the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council.

In February, he produced a report on the third quarter of 2015, which made several conclusions:

  • 103,660 people were employed in crop production jobs.
  • 7,500 jobs in crop production were unfilled.
  • Ontario had 3,200 unfilled jobs, the most of any province.
  • The average offered wage for a job in crop production was $12.35 per hour.

The average offered wage for a job at a clothing store was $11.60. A job in livestock production was $14.70.

The average offered wage in crop production doesn’t tell the whole story because the rate of pay was much higher in parts of Western Canada.

Statistics Canada groups harvesting, landscaping and natural resource labourers into the same category. Within that group, the average offered wage was $14.35 per hour in Canada.

Average wages varied across the country:

  • Ontario: $12.55 per hour
  • Southwestern Manitoba: $14.75 (second quarter of 2015)
  • Saskatchewan: $22.25 per hour
  • Alberta: $19.05 per hour
  • British Columbia: $13.90
  • Saskatoon-Biggar region: $25.20 per hour
  • Lethbridge-Medicine Hat: $17.30 (second quarter)

The report didn’t explain why offered wages in Ontario crop production were much lower than Alberta and Saskatchewan. However, horticultural crops are a significant part of Ontario agricultural production, and entry level wages in that sector may be lower than entry level wages on western grain farms.

The wage difference may also be geographic.

Statistics Canada data shows that the offered wage for a greenhouse worker was $11.65 per hour in Ontario, $15 per hour in Manitoba, $19.60 per hour in Saskatchewan and $16.40 per hour in Alberta.

With 6.8 percent of all jobs unfilled, the vacancy rate in crop production was nearly triple the rate for all sectors of Canada’s economy in the third quarter of 2015.

However, the vacancy rate in crop production declined throughout 2015. Crop production employed 60,000 people In the first quarter of the year and 13.9 percent of jobs were unfilled. However, by the second quarter there were 83,000 employed positions and a vacancy rate of 10.9.

“In the third quarter there were 104,000 (employees) … and the number of vacancies went down,” Bollman said.

“So they (farm operators) were quite successful in ramping up the number of employees, which would include temporary foreign workers. From that point of view it’s a great success. On the flip side, there’s still 7,500 vacancies left … (or) 6.8 percent of their total demand.”

Most of Bollman’s data came from the Statistics Canada job vacancy and wage survey, where employers are surveyed randomly during the three months of each quarter.

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