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Seasonal Job Postings Bounce Back But Finding Workers Could Prove Challenging

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Job seeker interest in holiday work remains subdued amid plentiful nonseasonal employment opportunities.

Key Points

  • After a down year in 2020, Canadian holiday-related job postings on Indeed have bounced back to slightly above their 2019 levels through mid-October, led by a rebound in customer-facing positions.
  • With total Canadian job postings well above their pre-pandemic level, seasonal positions are down as a share of overall postings, meaning job seekers have plentiful opportunities elsewhere.
  • Seasonal hiring could also be challenged by limited job seeker interest, as the proportion of Canadian job searches that include holiday-related terms remains over a quarter below its 2019 share. 

The appetite of Canadian employers for seasonal workers has returned. We track demand for workers this holiday season by tallying job postings on Indeed that include a range of terms such as “holiday,” “seasonal,” “Christmas,” and, of course, “Santa” in job titles, while excluding certain non-holiday terms like “labourer.”  This year, seasonal job postings have rebounded in solid fashion, though not as strongly as the broader economy. 

Every September, Canadian employers start to look for workers to fill positions for the coming holiday season, and seasonal job postings start to rise, typically through October. However, at this time last year, Canada had entered the second wave of the pandemic and hiring appetite was down. As of October 22, 2020, holiday job postings trailed their 2019 levels 32%, not seasonally adjusted. 

Line graph titled “Seasonal hiring demand back to 2019 levels.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0 to 400, Indeed tracked the share of Canadian holiday job postings along a horizontal axis ranging from February 1 to December 14 with different coloured lines representing 2019, 2020, and 2021. As of October 22, 2021, Canadian holiday-related job postings were back to slightly above their 2019 levels, led by a rebound in customer-facing positions, following a down year in 2020 with seasonal job postings trailing 2019 levels by 32%.

With in-store shopping returning, seasonal demand has rebounded to more normal levels this year, led by a solid bounce-back in customer-facing positions like customer service representative, cashier, and photographer, to document the festivities. As of October 22, 2021, Canadian holiday job postings were up 5% from their 2019 levels. The holiday hiring season also started a few weeks earlier this year than in 2019, with seasonal postings starting their rise in mid-August rather than early September as some employers looked to get a head start on the search for workers.

Stiffer competition for staff

Overall demand for seasonal workers is much stronger than last year, but it isn’t off the charts. That said, employers looking to hire for the holidays still face a difficult hiring environment, in part because nonseasonal job opportunities are plentiful across the economy.

As of mid-October, overall Canadian job postings on Indeed were far above their February 2020 levels after adjusting for typical seasonal trends. Meanwhile, holiday job postings only slightly exceeded their 2019 level. The result is that the seasonal share of total job postings was down noticeably. The share of total job postings this year that include holiday-related terms in their title stood at 1.0% in mid-October this year, compared with 1.4% at the same point in 2019. Ample job opportunities with longer work horizons could make it harder to fill these shorter-term roles. 

Bar chart titled “Seasonal jobs a smaller share of Canadian postings.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0% to 1.6%, Indeed compared holiday postings as a share of total Canadian job postings between 2019, 2020, and 2021 during the week of October 22. The share of total job postings including holiday-related terms in their title stood at 1.0% this year, compared to 1.4% at the same point in 2019.

Job seeker interest in seasonal work is lower than 2019

Strong competition from nonseasonal employers isn’t the only trend that could make holiday hiring tricky this year. It turns out job seekers are less interested in holiday-related positions now than they were pre-pandemic.

Canadian job searches on Indeed containing seasonal terms tend to follow employer activity with a slight lag. Last year, job seeker interest in seasonal positions fell well short of the 2019 rate, with holiday-related searches accounting for just 0.11% of total Canadian searches during the week of October 22, compared with 0.17% at the same point a year earlier.

Line graph titled “Job seeker interest in seasonal work remains down vs. 2019.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0% to 0.30%, Indeed tracked the share of Canadian job searches that include holiday-related terms along a horizontal axis ranging from February 1 to December 14 with different coloured lines representing 2019, 2020, and 2021. As of October 22, 2021, holiday-related searches accounted for 0.13% of total Canadian searches, compared with 0.11% in 2020 and 0.17% in 2019.

The share of Canadian job searches including holiday-related terms is slightly higher this year than last, perhaps reflecting greater worker confidence about COVID-19. Nonetheless, at 0.13% of total searches in the seven days ending October 22, the share of job seeker searches specifically looking for seasonal work was down by over a quarter compared with its pre-pandemic rate.  

Challenging hiring environment for seasonal employers

With daily life and economic activity starting to return to pre-pandemic norms, some aspects of this year’s holiday hiring environment are beginning to resemble typical patterns for this time of year. In particular, Canadian holiday-related job postings on Indeed now stand slightly above where they were in 2019. 

However, other conditions in today’s labour market have changed, which could make it tougher to fill seasonal jobs openings. Total Canadian job postings far exceed their pre-pandemic levels. As a result, holiday-related positions represent a smaller share of overall employer hiring appetite, meaning greater competition for workers. Meanwhile, the seasonal share of job seeker searches lags its 2019 rate, suggesting limited interest in these positions. Should these conditions persist, some seasonal employers struggling to fill roles may have to adjust their hiring strategies, particularly their compensation plans, to find workers for the holidays. 

Methodology

We track Canadian holiday-related job postings by tallying job postings on Indeed that include in their job titles terms like ‘Christmas,’ ‘xmas, ‘santa,’ ‘holiday,’ ‘seasonal,’ ‘advent,’ as well as their French equivalents. We exclude terms like ‘technician,’ ‘labourer,’ and ‘lifeguard’ that aren’t unique to the holiday season. We track job seeker interest in seasonal roles by counting the number of Canadian job searches on Indeed Canada using the same terms. All numbers in the post represent seven-day moving averages.