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Indeed Job Search Survey July 2021: Most Canadians Not Currently Searching for New Jobs

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Financial cushions, COVID-19 fears, and waiting for better opportunities all reasons some unemployed Canadians aren't searching urgently.

Key Points

  • Most Canadians looking for jobs in July weren’t searching urgently, including a slight majority of those out of work, according to the newly launched Indeed Canada Job Search Survey.
  • Most unemployed workers searching urgently wanted to start a new job immediately, while those searching less urgently were evenly split between starting right away or a later date and typically choosier about the types of positions they were interested in.  
  • Financial pressures were the main reason for urgent job search, reflecting dwindling resources, an impending end to government aid, or jobless spouses or partners.
  • Financial security was the most widely cited reason some unemployed people weren’t searching urgently, followed by lack of job opportunities, COVID-19 concerns, and care responsibilities. 

As the Canadian labour market has started normalizing, job openings are now well above pre-pandemic levels despite still-elevated unemployment. To better understand worker attitudes and behavior, we’ve launched the Indeed Canada Job Search Survey. Its first run polled 4,000 Canadians ages 18 to 64 between July 15-20, covering both those employed and those not.

Urgent job search is relatively uncommon, even among the jobless

Most survey participants weren’t on a job hunt in July. Only 27% were actively looking for work, and just 9% of respondents said they were searching “urgently.”  A full 47% reported they weren’t actively searching, but said they were open to new opportunities today or in the future.  Another 26% were neither looking nor interested in a new job.

Bar chart titled “Most Canadians not currently searching for work.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0% to 60%, Indeed compared the share of Canadians who stated they are “not searching, not interested,” “not searching, open to work,” “searching, not urgently,” and “searching urgently” for work in July 2021. As of July 20, 2021, 47% of Canadians surveyed stated they were not searching but were open to work.

The situation varies somewhat between those employed and those not. Unsurprisingly, a greater share of jobless Canadians reported searching urgently than those employed. Nonetheless, among unemployed workers (i.e. those jobless and currently searching for work), a greater share described their search as non-urgent than urgent. Non-urgent searchers represented 18% of jobless respondents and urgent searchers 14%. 

Bar chart titled “Jobless are somewhat more likely to be searching urgently.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0% to 60%, Indeed compared the share of Canadians who stated that they were “searching, urgently,” “searching, not urgently,” “not searching, open to work,” and “not searching, not interested” for work in July 2021 with different coloured bars representing employed and not employed. As of July 20, 2021, the share of jobless Canadians urgently searching for work was higher than among those employed, at 14% compared to 8%.

Meanwhile, a higher share of jobless workers are neither searching nor interested in working than those who already have jobs. This primarily reflects the prevalence of people ages 55-64 who’ve exited the labour force and aren’t looking to return.

Most unemployed job seekers want to start work immediately

Unemployed respondents searching urgently for work were more likely to want to start a new job immediately than those whose searches weren’t as pressing. Some 76% of those searching urgently wanted to begin work right away, while 22% reported they preferred to start in one-to-three months.

Bar chart titled “Unemployed generally prefer to start new jobs immediately.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0% to 90%, Indeed compared the preferred start date of a new job among jobless workers by search status with different coloured bars representing “immediate,” “1 to 3 months,” and “4 months or more.” As of July 20, 2021, 76% of the urgent unemployed would like to start a new job immediately, while 22% would like to start in one to three months.

By contrast, 50% of unemployed people not searching urgently said they wanted immediate work and 39% preferred to wait one-to-three months. In addition, 47% of unemployed respondents searching urgently noted they would take “any job they can get,” a larger share than the 32% of jobless people not searching urgently.

Financial cushion a key divide between urgent and non-urgent unemployed 

It is clear why unemployed job seekers searching urgently were more eager to find work than their non-urgent counterparts: they need money quickly. Some two-thirds of urgently searching unemployed job seekers reported financial factors were making their searches pressing. Specifically, 53% cited dwindling financial cushions, 8% pointed to ending jobless benefits like Employment Insurance (EI) and the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), and 6% reported their spouse or partner was also out of work.

Table titled “Financial troubles the main reason for urgent job search.” Indeed listed the reasons for urgent job search among the urgent-unemployed. As of July 20, 2021, 53% of respondents stated that their financial cushion was small and about to run out as the main reason for urgent job search.

On the flip side, among unemployed workers not searching urgently, 60% reported financial resources as a reason for their patience, including 33% citing a sufficient financial cushion; 20% noted their spouse or partner was still employed; and 7% said they could get by on EI or CRB. 

Table titled “Wide range of reasons for not searching urgently.” Indeed listed the reasons for non-urgent job search among the non-urgent unemployed. As of July 20, 2021, 33% of respondents stated that a financial cushion was their main reason for non-urgent job search.

Financial factors aren’t the only reason some jobless workers aren’t searching urgently. Some 23% of jobless workers not searching urgently cited COVID-19 worries, an especially important reason among those who were only partially vaccinated. Another 17% said they weren’t looking urgently because they needed to take care of children or family, an explanation more often given by mothers of children twelve and younger. 

Some unemployed job seekers waiting for better opportunities

Interestingly, over a quarter of the non-urgent unemployed mentioned they weren’t urgently searching for work in part because they felt no jobs were available nearby. This was despite a surge in employer hiring appetite since the start of the year, which had sent job postings on Indeed Canada to 35% above their pre-pandemic level in mid-July. 

Discouragement about job prospects was more common among those with less education. Overall, 38% of non-urgent unemployed job seekers without post-secondary degrees said limited work opportunities reduced the urgency of their search, compared with 18% among those who had completed college or university. For those with more education, financial cushions were generally a more important reason for their patience.

Table titled “Those with less education more likely to be non-urgently searching to due to limited opportunities.” Indeed listed reasons for non-urgent job search among the non-urgent unemployed, with separate columns representing respondents with less than post-secondary and completed post-secondary education. 38% of respondents with less than post-secondary education stated no available work as the main reason for non-urgent job search, while 39% of respondents who completed post-secondary education stated that a financial cushion was the main reason for non-urgent job search.

The divide between education groups could be because several areas where demand for workers is high, such as tech and healthcare, typically require post-secondary degrees. At the same time though, job postings on Indeed Canada are also well above pre-pandemic levels in several sectors with fewer educational requirements, such as customer and food services, cleaning and sanitation, and construction. Some of the respondents’ belief that work was not available could also reflect dissatisfaction about job quality, especially if some job openings offer low pay, limited flexibility, or little opportunity for advancement. Employers struggling to fill vacancies might be able to attract more non-urgent job seekers by boosting pay and benefits.      

Looking ahead

The dynamics of the Canadian labour market are more complicated than can be gleaned from traditional employment numbers alone. Among unemployed workers, the job hunt varies widely. Some jobless Canadians are searching urgently, often due to financial pressure. Others are able to take their time thanks to financial cushions. Still others make their choices based on fears of COVID-19 or the need to care for others.

The current situation isn’t set in stone. The uncertain future of jobless benefits like the Canada Recovery Benefit and expanded employment insurance after their currently scheduled late-October expiration could put pressure on some workers to step up their job searches. And, of course, the evolving path of the pandemic could alter job seeker decisions. Indeed will keep a close eye on how Canadian workers respond to this rapidly changing environment. 

Methodology

This blog post is based on an online survey of 4,000 Canadian adults ages 18-64 conducted July 15-20. Weights were applied to match respondent distributions across age, educational attainment, and time spent in Canada with the Labour Force Survey public-use microfile data from January 2021 through June 2021. 

Statistical agencies define unemployed workers as those who are jobless and actively searching for paid work, either urgently or not urgently. The category jobless but open to working includes those who report that are not searching but would consider searching in the future or be open to opportunities if they came up.