Stick figures

The tightness in labour markets — a critical factor in inflation — continued to ease as job vacancies declined in the first quarter, according to Statistics Canada.

In a report Tuesday, the national statistical agency said the number of open jobs fell by 3.6% in the first quarter of 2024, driven by a 4.5% drop in permanent positions.

With the latest decline in unfilled jobs, the vacancy rate — the number of vacancies as a share of total labour demand — also declined to 3.6%. This represented the seventh straight quarterly drop since vacancies peaked at 5.6% in the second quarter of 2022.

Total labour demand also dipped by 0.1% in the first quarter, while payroll employment held steady, StatsCan said.

Meanwhile, the growth in average offered hourly wages accelerated, the report noted.

Average hourly wages rose at a 5.1% annual rate in the first quarter, a slight increase from 5.0% in the previous quarter, StatsCan reported. The wages offered for vacant positions rose at a 7.3% rate in the first quarter, up from 5.8% in the fourth quarter of 2023.

“The average offered hourly wage was effectively at parity with the average reservation wage in the first quarter,” StatsCan noted. “When offered wages are close to, or above, the reservation wage, it can be easier for employers to fill a job vacancy.”