Canadian Job Search Since the Shutdown: Gearing up for a Socially Distant Summer

Fastest growing search terms range from seasonal-work, to partial rebounds in certain service-sector jobs.

Canadian job search patterns on Indeed shifted decisively as COVID-19’s economic impacts spread in mid-March. Job seeker interest in remote work surged, as did the share of searches looking for positions at large grocers, Amazon, and Walmart. Meanwhile, job seekers turned away from areas of the economy no longer operating, like front-of-house restaurant work.

Some of these changes — especially increased in interest in remote work —  have persisted since early in the pandemic. However, when we look at the evolution of searches between early-April (the 3rd to 17th) and mid-May (the 8th to 22nd), new patterns have also emerged.

First, several of the fastest growing search terms in recent weeks involve highly-seasonal work, some of which can be done from a relatively social distance. Standing out at the top of the list are job searches including “golf”, which have more than doubled as a share of Canadian job searches since early April. “Garden” and “landscaping” related job searches have also jumped as a share of activity, as have searches for “fruit picking”, which could potentially provide some relief for agricultural producers reporting difficulty finding workers. Not only is relative search interest in these roles up since April, reflecting general seasonality, but it’s also higher than it was last May, when a wider range of job opportunities were available

A second category of search terms that have picked up recently are searches for jobs explicitly geared towards students. Terms like “etudiant”, “high school student”, and “student part-time”, have all increased as a share of Canadian job seeker activity since early April. However, among the three, only “etudiant” accounts for a higher share of total job search activity that it did last year, while the latter two are actually down substantially. While some students are ramping up their summer job search, the economic situation might be discouraging others from doing so. 

A third category of job search terms that have picked up as a share of activity in recent weeks are queries related to service sector jobs, showing partial rebounds following sharp declines earlier in the pandemic. These include terms like “barista”, “restaurant”, “waitress”, “line cook”, “dealership”, “daycare” and dental sector-related positions. Some of these increases also might reflect the general seasonality of the economy, especially for food-service related roles. At the same time, with the exception of “dealership” all of these terms currently account for a substantially smaller share of Canadian search activity than they did last May. 

Seasonal swings, but different patterns than years past

Like other aspects of the job market, Canadian job searches often show definitive seasonal patterns. This year is no different, with many of the fastest growing job search terms between early-April and mid-May relating to work that’s often done during the summer months, as well as jobs geared towards students on break. 

That said, we also see noticeable differences in relative search interest for some of these terms compared to this point last year. Searches including “high school student” and “student part-time”, as well as several service-sector related terms remain down as a share of overall activity from a year ago, despite increasing more recently. Job seeker interest in these roles might be warming, but it’s clear many don’t expect employers in these areas to offer the same opportunities for work as in years past. 

Instead, some of the types of seasonal work that have seen a pick-up in job search share both since April, and compared to last May, are for jobs where social distancing is more feasible, like work at golf courses as well as in gardening and landscaping. On the flip-side, in a sad sight for the summer to come, searches for “summer camp” have barely budged as a share of activity as the season’s approached, its share of overall job searches down 63% from last May.

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