- In 2023, Canadian job seeker interest — measured by the share of total job seeker applications started, by occupation — increased in roles involving manual labour, health care, and in-person services like food and retail. Meanwhile, customer service, administrative assistance, and a range of tech and white-collar occupations declined in relative popularity.
- The best predictor of changes in application share across occupations in 2023 was how often postings mentioned remote or hybrid work, with job seeker interest shifting to job types requiring on-site work (in contrast to early-pandemic trends).
- Application share also slipped among jobs with greater exposure to generative artificial intelligence (GenAI). While this was likely a byproduct of the shift away from remote-friendly jobs, it could also have been a sign of some job seekers avoiding occupations at greater risk of automation.
- Despite a slight boost in 2023, health care job postings for nurses, therapists, and doctors still received just one-fifth of the applications per posting as the typical job ad on Indeed, reflecting both weak supply and elevated demand.
2023 was a unique year for the Canadian labour market. Conditions weakened, but from a strong starting point. Population growth boomed, and generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) emerged. So, how did job seekers respond to these developments?
It’s normal for modest year-to-year changes in the occupations job seekers on Indeed are applying for, and 2023 was no different. The characteristics of those on the job hunt (like age or work history), and their preferences, are always in flux. However, trends in 2023 were more notable because of clear patterns in the characteristics of jobs gaining and losing popularity, particularly around remote work, and exposure to GenAI.
Top 2023 risers and fallers in Canadian job seeker interest
Some of the largest increases in job seeker interest between Q4 2022 and Q4 2023 were in positions related to health care, especially personal care & home health roles (nursing jobs also captured more interest from job seekers, though from a relatively low level). Approximately 3% of all Canadian job seeker applications started on Indeed job postings in Q4 2023 were for roles in personal care and home health, up 28% from the same period in 2022. The share of total applications directed at postings in several manual labour occupations also increased. The application share for loading and stocking jobs rose 18%, while installation and maintenance, cleaning and sanitation, and driving all received more attention too. Food services and retail roles also received greater relative job seeker interest in late 2023 than a year earlier, consistent with stronger search interest for seasonal holiday jobs.
The types of positions that lost job seeker interest in 2023 looked different, encompassing a range of professional and office occupations, often performed in front of a computer, and potentially from home. The share of applications started for marketing roles declined by 19% year-over-year in Q4 2023. Meanwhile, the largest declines in percentage point terms were in customer service and administrative assistance positions, owing to each field’s large size. Application share also slipped in sectors like tech, and human resources.
Clear pattern: Remote-friendly occupations (often highly exposed to AI) got relatively less attention
Looking across 47 occupational sectors with sufficient data, a few clear patterns in job seeker application trends appear. First, jobs done primarily in-person (i.e. those rarely mentioning remote or hybrid work in job descriptions) gained in job seeker applications, relative to remote-friendly roles. In a regression model analyzing change in application share in 2023, controlling for remote posting share alone helped explain 50% of the variation growth in 2023. The correlation remained similar and statistically significant, even after accounting for other factors such as changes in employer job postings
Given many in-person job types lost job seeker popularity after the start of the pandemic, last year’s shift is likely a partial return to earlier job search patterns. Perhaps relatedly, the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses found that the share of employers citing shortages of “unskilled or semi-skilled labour” as a key limitation on sales growth declined over the course of 2023.
Many of the remote-friendly occupations that lost job seeker interest share another characteristic: They’re jobs most likely at risk of disruption from GenAI. In previous research, we used ChatGPT-4.0’s stated ability to perform skills listed in job descriptions to determine the potential exposure of different occupations to GenAI-related disruption. Our key metric for GenAI exposure is the share of skills mentioned in each occupation’s job postings for which ChatGPT ranks its abilities as either “good” or “excellent.”
By itself, accounting for occupational exposure to GenAI explained a similar portion (45%) of changes in application share as the prevalence of remote work, with more exposed jobs experiencing relative declines in job seeker interest. This correlation is likely primarily capturing the side effect of the shift in applications toward in-person jobs. When controlling for both remote posting share and GenAI exposure, the latter loses some statistical significance. However, there were still cases — like for postings in administrative assistance — where remote work isn’t especially common, but relatively high exposure to GenAI might help explain a sharp decline in job seeker popularity.
Most of the focus on GenAI’s potential labour market impacts has been on how it will impact employers’ demand for workers. However, the response among job seekers is also worth tracking closely, including whether people start shying away from fields that are at greater risk of disruption.
Special Focus: Despite 2023’s uptick, health care postings are struggling to attract applicants
Despite a modest increase in popularity in 2023, health care occupations still tend to receive far less job seeker interest than the typical job ad on Indeed. As of Q4 2023, job postings for therapy roles attracted fewer than one-fifth (18%) of the applications started than the typical Canadian job posting, with postings for nursing and physicians & surgeons receiving only slightly more. The exception to this pattern was in personal care and home health, which, partly due to a jump in job seeker interest, received 14% more applications than average in late 2023.
Part of this gap facing most of the health care sector reflects long-running labour shortages, which have been evident since well before the pandemic. More recently, while hiring appetite has declined in most sectors since mid-2022, health care job postings have remained elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels, offsetting some of the 2023 increase in job seeker interest. Recent policy changes expanding foreign-trained health care workers’ access to Canadian education and employment opportunities can help. Still, more domestic-focused reforms are likely also needed to address Canada’s health care staffing woes.
We track changes in job seeker interest in different jobs by tallying job seeker applications started on Canadian job postings on Indeed for different occupations. The data in this post compares applications started during the fourth quarter of 2022 and the fourth quarter of 2023.
We define the remote share of job postings as the percent of job postings that mention remote or hybrid work-related terms in their job description, the data in the post focused on postings active during the fourth quarter of 2023. We assess occupational exposure to GenAI by comparing the skills listed in job descriptions to Chat GPT-4’s assessment of its capabilities in performing these skills.
The regression analysis mentioned above focuses on the results of unweighted linear regressions using the log-linear measures of remote posting share and GenAI exposure. The results are robust to weighting the regressions by posting count.