File:. AFP/Frederic J. Brown
OTTAWA - The signs of an unprecedented labour shortage in Canada are glaring: Hospital emergency rooms closed because of a lack of nurses, restaurants skipping meals and fewer Santas in malls.
In Ottawa, a "Help Wanted" notice in the window of Corazon De Maiz restaurant -- like those in storefronts across Canada -- has gone mostly unanswered since the recent lifting of public health restrictions introduced 19 months ago to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The end of Covid-19 lockdowns brought droves of customers to the capital city eatery, but with kitchen staffing levels down, the restaurant has been unable to meet the demand for burritos and tacos.
Studies by the government and industry associations found that up to two-thirds of Canadian businesses are facing worker shortages, and claim the deficit is limiting their growth.
The industries most affected are health care, food services, manufacturing and construction.
According to the latest from Statistics Canada, there were a total of 1,014,600 job vacancies in September, including 196,100 in food services and 131,200 in health care -- double the numbers from two years ago.
Trevin Stratton, a partner at Deloitte Canada, said factors contributing to the shortfall include an ageing population leaving the workforce and lower recent immigration due to travel restrictions -- which Canada lifted in September.
Some sectors are adapting through the use of technologies such as increased automation in manufacturing, e-commerce in retail, or allowing staff to work from home.
But in others, "many workers might not necessarily yet feel comfortable working somewhere where their physical presence is required," Stratton said.
This is particularly true in the restaurant industry, which also shed workers fed up with the cycle of lockdowns and re-openings throughout the pandemic. "They're now looking for more stability," Stratton said.
With Christmas just weeks away, the trend has also impacted the supply of Santa actors usually hired for photos with children on their knee at shopping malls or professional mixers.