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Workplace vacancies hit an all-time high in March, as the latest round of pandemic-related restrictions were eased, according to new data from Statistics Canada.

The national statistical agency reported that vacancies jumped by 22.6% in the month to over 1 million for the first time.

The number of open jobs jumped by 186,400 in the month, and were up by 382,000 from March 2021, an increase of 60.5%.

The job vacancy rate — the share of vacant to filled positions — was also at a record high of 5.9%, StatsCan said.

The increase in unfilled jobs was led by the accommodation and food services and retail trade sectors, which both saw the number of vacancies rise by 37.2% during the month.

The construction and healthcare sectors also reported record high job vacancy numbers in March.

StatsCan indicated that the phenomenon was evident nationwide, with vacancies increasing in all provinces during the month.

Record highs were recorded in British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, with the sharpest increases coming in Saskatchewan (up 49.4%) and Nova Scotia (45.6%).

Additionally, with unemployment at a record low in March, StatsCan said there was an average of 1.2 unemployed people for each job vacancy, down from 1.4 in February and from 2.6 in March 2021.

“This decline coincides with a number of Labour Force Survey indicators which pointed to an increasingly tight labour market in March,” it said.

Some of the surge in job vacancies reflects seasonal variations in labour demand, the report noted — although StatsCan also said that new experimental data that it has developed to account for seasonality points to a fundamental increase in unfilled jobs.

“Based on these data, total job vacancies increased from September to December 2021, consistent with a number of economic and labour market indicators which suggested that employers continued to face significant challenges filling vacant positions in the late fall and early winter 2021,” it said — adding that the same indicators show that vacancies decreased in January and February alongside tighter public health restrictions in certain regions.

Alongside the vacancy data, the agency reported that payroll employment increased by 118,100 (0.7%) in March as those public health restrictions eased.

The resurgent services sector led the increase in payroll employment, with the retail sector finally regaining its pre-pandemic level for the first time in March.

Average weekly earnings rose faster than the increase in employment, rising by 0.9% in March on a month-over-month basis.

And, on a year-over-year basis, average weekly earnings were up 4.3% in March — trailing the 6.7% increase in consumer prices over the same period.