Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS)

Job Seekers (2019-2028)

NOTE: The current COPS projections were completed in 2019, well before the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak that resulted in exceptional and abrupt economic and labour market disruptions in Canada as well as abroad. However, the focus of the COPS projections is on long-term trends in industrial and occupational labour markets, not on short-term developments. At the moment, these long-term trends are not expected to be affected markedly by the COVID-19 outbreak as its impacts are generally foreseen to be temporary.

The current exercise uses the 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC), which is the most up-to-date version of the classification. The 2016 NOC has 500 occupations. However, many of these occupations are small in terms of employment. Such occupations were combined into broader groupings according to the specific tasks of each occupation. By grouping small occupations with similar tasks together, 293 occupational groupings were obtained. Occupations that were grouped are marked with an asterisk (*).

For more information on the 293 occupational grouping used in COPS, please visit the COPS Occupational Groupings' Definition.

Job seekers include three primary groups: school leavers, new immigrants and other job seekers such as students and re-entrants:

The last two subgroups (i.e. net re-entrants and student workers) are negligible in size. As a result they are not explicitly considered in this report as their inclusion has no impact on the main results. In particular, student workers are left out because, although they represent a sizeable number of workers in the labour force, their number is expected to remain relatively stable (i.e. the number of students seeking employment over 2019-2028 will only be slightly higher than over the previous decade). Both net re-entrants and student workers are combined in the category “others”.

Job Seekers from the Education System (School Leavers)

Over the period 2019-2028, it is expected that the number of school leavers entering the labour market will increase (see Figure 1 below).

Figure 1: School Leavers by Education Level, 1990-2028

Bar figure showing the annual school leavers by education level over the period 1990-2028. The data is shown on the link following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Text Version of Figure 1: School Leavers by Education Level, 1990-2028

Figure 1 shows that on average, there were 414,000 school leavers per year over the 2009-2018 period. This is expected to increase to an annual average of 494,000 school leavers over the projection period. More particularly:

Over the 2019-2028 projection period, the aging population will continue to be an important issue in the Canadian labour market. Over this time period, the average share of the older youth group (aged 20-29) on the total working age population (15-64) is expected to be 19.6%, the lowest ten year average since 1971. This can be seen in Figure 2, which shows the population age groups of 15 to 19 and 20 to 29 in thousands and their shares in the total working age population over the period 1990 to 2028.

Figure 2: Populations Aged 15 to 19 and 20 to 29 and their Shares in the Total Working Age Population (15-64), 1990-2028

Line figure showing the annual populations aged 15 to 19 and 20 to 29 and their shares in the total working age population (15-64) over the period 1990-2026. The data is shown on the link following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Text version of Figure 2: Populations Aged 15 to 19 and 20 to 29 and their Shares in the Total Working Age Population (15-64), 1990-2028

However, the annual average population of this youth group (aged 20-29) is still expected to be 3.4% higher over the projection period (2019-2028) than during the previous ten years (2009-2018). As this is the source population for school leavers with a post-secondary education (PSE), the number of job seekers leaving the PSE system is also expected to increase.

The annual average number of younger youth (aged 15-19) is expected to be about 218,000 over the projection period, a 2.5% increase relative to the previous ten years. Although this age group is the source population for school leavers with a high school education or less, most of them are expected to continue and enroll into post-secondary education, limiting the growth of those remaining with only a high school diploma.

In addition to a larger source population for PSE, the increase in school leavers with PSE is also explained by an upward trend in PSE enrolment rates. Indeed, the enrolment rate in post-secondary programs increased over the past 15 years and that upward trend is projected to continue over the coming decade. The largest increase (2.7 percentage points) is expected at the bachelor level, followed by the master’s and PhD level (0.7 percentage points) and then the college level (0.4 percentage points). Figure 3 shows the enrolment rates by level of education as percentage of the source population over the period 1990 to 2028.

Figure 3: Enrolment Rates by Level of Education (as Percentage of Source Population), 1990-2028

Line figure showing the annual enrolment rates by level of education as percentage of source population over the period 1990-2028. The data is shown on the link following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

For each educational level, the enrolment rate is defined as total enrolment divided by source population. The source population is defined as:

Text version of Figure 3: Enrolment Rates by Level of Education (as Percentage of Source Population), 1990-2028

Several factors are expected to contribute to higher enrolment rates in post-secondary education over the next decade, including:

These two effects lead to a higher projected number of enrolments in post-secondary education (PSE). This can be seen in Figure 4, which shows the number of enrolments by levels of education over the period 1990 to 2028.

Figure 4: Number of Enrolments by Level of Education, 1990-2028

Area figure showing the annual enrolments by level of education over the period 1990-2028. The data is shown on the link following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Text version of Figure 4: Number of Enrolments by Level of Education, 1990-2028

Over the 2009-2018 period, the number of enrolments among women increased in all PSE levels, but at a slower pace than among men at all levels of education, with enrolments growing the least at the college level (12% for women vs 24% for men), then the bachelor level (21% vs 26%), and the most at the master’s and PhD levels (36% vs 39%).

Due to a larger older youth population (20-29) and higher enrolment rates, the level of enrolments in PSE programs is projected to increase by 12.9% over the 2019-2028 period (from 1.4 million in 2018 to 1.58 million in 2028). More specifically, the number of enrolments in:

Trends in the number of enrolments by gender were not projected.

Higher enrolments translate into increases in the number of school leavers with PSE, including both, those with a college education (Figure 5) and those with a university degree (Figure 6).

Figure 5: School Leavers with a College Education, 1990-2028

Line figure showing the annual school leavers with a college education and the population aged 18 to 24 over the period 1990-2028. The data is shown on the link following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Text version of Figure 5: School Leavers with a College Education, 1990-2028

The population aged 18 to 24 (the source population for school leavers with a college education) has not increased significantly in recent years, but this trend is not expected to continue as this source population is expected to grow significantly over the projection period. This source population is expected to include 165,000 more people in 2028 than it did in 2018. As a result, the number of school leavers with a college education will continue to trend up, from 173 thousand in 2018 to 188 thousand in 2028, representing an increase of 8.3% (Figure 5). This can be explained by the increased number of college enrolments, driven by the good labour market conditions for individuals with this level of education.

Figure 6: School Leavers with a University Education, 1990-2028

Line figure showing the annual school leavers with a university education and the population aged 18 to 34 over the period 1990-2028. The data is shown on the link following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Text version of Figure 6: School Leavers with a University Education, 1990-2028

For more than 40 years the number of school leavers with a university degree has been trending up, mostly as a result of the higher incomes and better labour market opportunities available to graduates with this level of education. It is important to note that the 2008-2009 recession had a positive impact on enrolment in university programs leading to a short-term increase in the number of university graduates and school leavers from 2009 to 2014.

The number of school leavers with a university degree is expected to increase as the source population for this group (mainly high school graduates aged 18 to 34) and enrolment rates will continue to increase as well. As a result, the volume of these school leavers is expected to grow by 19.4% over the projection period, from 216 thousand in year 2018 to 258 thousand in 2028. The good labour market conditions and higher income premiums for individuals with this level of education explain the continuation of this upward trend (see Figure 6).

Despite the increase projected in the youth 15-19 population, the rising post-secondary education enrolments will limit the growth in the number of school leavers with only a high school diploma (or less). Figure 7 shows the historical and projection estimates of these school leavers.

Figure 7: School Leavers with High School Diploma and High School Dropouts 1990-2028

Line figure showing the annual school leavers with a high school diploma, high school dropouts and the population aged 15 to 19 over the period 1990-2028. The data is shown on the link following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Text version of Figure 7: School Leavers with High School Diploma and High School Dropouts 1990-2028

The number of school leavers with only high school has been trending down since the early 2000s as their source population (youth aged 15-19) has not been growing rapidly and a larger share of high school graduates have been continuing their education at the post-secondary level. Over the course of the projection period, however, the number of people who will have completed only high school is expected to increase. This is due to an increase in the number of youth 15-19 years old over the next ten years. Nevertheless, as more high school graduates are expected to move on and enroll in PSE, the number of school leavers with only high school education is expected to grow at a slower pace than it would have otherwise, increasing by 2.8% over the projection period. Despite this projected growth, the average annual number of school leavers with a high school diploma is expected to fall from 72 thousand over the period 2009-2018, to 63 thousand over the period 2019-2028.

The number of school leavers with less than high school education is expected to remain very low, with an annual average of 6,800 over the projection period. Despite an increase in the source population of youth aged 15-19, low wages and limited labour market opportunities for individuals without at least high school diplomas will lead to the majority of young people attaining at the minimum a high school diploma, and increasing numbers finishing their education with some level of PSE.

The share of those with post-secondary education (PSE) in total school leavers is therefore projected to increase over the period 2019-2028. This can be seen in figure 8, which shows the historical and projected percentage distribution of school leavers by educational level.

Figure 8: Historical and Projected Distribution of School Leavers by Education Level

Bar figure showing the distribution of the cumulative school leavers by education level, over the periods 1999-2008, 2009-2018 and 2019-2028. The data is shown on the link following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Text version of Figure 8: Historical and Projected Distribution of School Leavers by Education Level

Figure 8 shows that the already high share of Canadian school leavers with PSE is expected to grow further over the projection period.

School leavers with college and university education accounted for 81.7% of the total number of school leavers over the 2009-2018 period (3.51 million compared to 0.79 million for school leavers with lower educational attainment). This share is projected to increase to 85.9% (4.24 million school leavers with PSE) over the 2019-2028 period, driven by the large increase in the share of school leavers with a university degree.

Over the projection period, only 0.7 million school leavers are expected to enter the labour market without PSE. The total number of school leavers with less than high school is expected to increase slightly from 65 thousand over the 2009-2018 period to 68 thousand over the projection period. However, the total number of those with only high school or some post-secondary education is projected to decline by about 12.5%, from 722 thousand over the 2009-2018 period to 631 thousand over the 2019-2028 period.

Therefore, the educational attainment of Canada’s labour force is expected to continue rising, with the share of the labour force with a postsecondary education projected to increase to 67.5% in 2028, from 65.9% in 2018, as can be seen in Figure 9. However, with the diminishing difference in the educational attainment between the older cohorts and the younger cohorts, the rise in the share of people with PSE is projected to be slower than the one registered during the previous ten years, when it grew by 8.2 percentage points, from 57.7% in 2008 to 65.9% in 2018.

Figure 9: Share of the Labour Force (15+) with a Post-Secondary Education, 1990-2028

Bar figure showing the annual share of the labour force that are 15 years and older with a post-secondary education over the period 1990-2028. The data is shown on the link following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Text version of Figure 9: Share of the Labour Force (15+) with a Post-secondary Education, 1990-2028

More specifically, the projected labour force growth will be highest among university graduates (1.4% average annual growth rate (AAGR) over the 2019-2028 period) and college graduates (AAGR of 0.9%).

With regards to the labour force participants without PSE, although their projected share of the labour force will decrease slightly, their overall number is still expected to grow slightly. The size of the labour force represented by those with high school and those with less than high school is projected to grow at an annual average rate of just 0.5% and 0.1% respectively.

However, not all the PSE school leavers are expected to work in occupations usually requiring PSE. Figures 10 and 11 show these misalignments.

Figure 10: Historical and Projected Distribution of School Leavers by Skill Level*

Bar figure showing the distribution of cumulative school leavers by skill level, over the periods 1999-2008, 2009-2018 and 2019-2028. The data is shown on the link following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Text version of Figure 10: Historical and Projected Distribution of School Leavers by Skill Level

Figure 11: Projected Distribution of School Leavers by Education Level

Bar figure showing the distribution of cumulative school leavers by education level, over the period 2019-2028. The data is shown on the link following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Text version of Figure 11: Projected Distribution of School Leavers by Education Level

*Note: In the NOC, all occupations fall into one of five skill levels. Skill Level A includes occupations that usually require university education; Skill Level B usually requires college education, specialized training or apprenticeship training; Skill Level C usually requires high school and/or occupation specific training; and Skill Level D usually requires only on-the-job training. The final skill level is Skill Level 0, which includes all management occupations where various levels of education may be required, but it is usually grouped with Skill Levels A and B as high skill.

School leavers are estimated at their highest level of education attained and then distributed among occupations following the historical patterns of school leavers with the same level of education.

Although Canadian school leavers are projected to be more educated (85.9% with PSE), only 64.3% are expected to work in occupations that usually require PSE or management occupations. This implies a relatively high incidence of education-occupation mismatch among recent PSE graduates as they leave school. This mismatch over the projection period represents an increase in comparison with the previous decade.

Part of this mismatch may be transitory as new school leavers need time to completely integrate into the labour force and into a matching occupation. They may land in lower skilled occupations when they first enter the labour market. Later, however, they might seek and move to occupations that better match their qualifications (note that this is taken into account in COPS by the inter-occupational mobility component).

At the occupational level, school leavers are expected to concentrate in sales and service occupations. Table 1 shows the top 10 occupations where the largest number of school leavers are expected to seek work over the period 2019 to 2028.

Table 1: Top 10 Occupations Where the Largest Number of School Leavers are Expected to Seek Work, 2019-2028
NOC Occupations Share in Total School Leavers Average Annual School Leavers as % of 2018 Employment Employment Size
(% of Total 2018 Employment)
6421* Retail Salespersons 3.7% 3.2% 3.0%
4032* Elementary school and kindergarten teachers 2.7% 4.2% 1.7%
3012* Registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses 2.5% 3.9% 1.7%
6711* Food counter attendants, kitchen helpers and related support occupations 2.3% 2.9% 2.1%
6611* Cashiers 2.2% 3.2% 1.8%
1111* Financial auditors and accountants 1.7% 4.4% 1.0%
6513* Food and beverage servers 1.7% 4.1% 1.1%
4214* Early childhood educators and assistants 1.6% 3.3% 1.3%
2174 Computer programmers and interactive media developers 1.4% 4.2% 0.9%
3413/3414* Nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates & Other assisting occs. in support of health serv. 1.3% 2.1% 1.7%

Note 1: Occupations with a star are groupings of 4-digit occupations (including 3-digit occupations which are considered as groups of 4-digit occupations).
Note 2: Occupations in bold are those where at least 50% of their workers were women in 2018.

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Occupations where the largest number of school leavers will seek work are usually occupations with larger employment size. Out of the ten occupations expecting the largest number of school leavers, four are related to sales and services. This can be explained in part by the lower skill requirements of entry level occupations, and also because of the relatively larger employment size of these occupations.

Job Seekers from Immigration (New Immigrants)

In the projection, annual immigration is assumed to represent a relatively stable share of the population, based on the immigration targets set for the next few years. Figure 12 shows the historical and projected annual immigration levels as well as the immigration rates (ratio of new immigrants to total population) over the period 1998 to 2028.

Figure 12: Annual Immigration Levels and Rates, 1998-2028

Line figure showing the annual immigration levels and rates over the period 1996-2026. The data is shown on the link following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Text version of Figure 12: Annual Immigration Levels and Rates, 1998-2028

Indeed, Figure 12 shows that the average immigration rate has historically been around 7.8 per 1,000 people in Canada, or 0.78%. Over the 2009-2018 period, this represented an average of 270,600 new immigrants entering Canada annually (from July to June each year). However, only a fraction of this total has joined the labour market upon entering Canada as this number includes children and adults who may or may not have joined the labour force once in Canada. Indeed, those new immigrants who effectively entered the labour market represented an average of 128,100 new entrants every year.

The upward trend in the immigration rate in recent years, along with new immigration policies targeting a larger number of immigrants, will lead to an immigration annual average rate of about 0.90% over the projection period. As a result, 3.5 million new immigrants are expected to join the Canadian population over the 10-year projection period.

Figure 13 shows the annual population growth as a result of natural increase (births minus deaths, in blue), and net immigration (immigration minus emigration, in red), measured in thousands of people.

In the projections, annual population growth averages about 432 thousand per year over the 2019-2028 period, compared to 400 thousand over the previous 10-year period.

Figure 13: Population Growth by Demographic Component, Annual Averages

Bar figure showing the annual average population growth by component (natural increase and net immigration) over the periods 1999-2008, 2009-2018 and 2019-2028. The data is shown on the link following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Text version of Figure 13: Population Growth by Demographic Component, Annual Averages

Figure 13 shows that projected immigration accounts for a larger share of population growth than observed in the previous decade. Indeed, the share of population growth stemming from net immigration (immigration minus emigration) is expected to increase to 73% over the 2019-2028 period, compared with 68% for the period 2009-2018 and 64% for the period 1999-2008. This is due both to an increase in net immigration itself and a slower natural population increase (births minus deaths).

Figure 14 shows the annual average contribution of new immigrants and domestic supply to total labour force growth over the periods of 1999 to 2008, 2009 to 2018 and 2019 to 2028. The contribution of new immigrants to labour force growth is shown in red. The contribution of the domestic supply is in blue. This figure shows that immigration is expected to account for a much larger share of labour force growth over the projection period, compared to the previous 20 years.

Figure 14: Contribution of New Immigrants and Domestic Supply to Total Labour Force Growth: Annual Averages

Bar figure showing the annual average contribution of new immigrants and domestic supply to the total labour force growth over the periods 1999-2008, 2009-2018 and 2019-2028. The data is shown on the link following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Text version of Figure 14: Contribution of New Immigrants and Domestic Supply to Total Labour Force Growth: Annual Averages

The projections show a slight increase in the growth of the labour force over the projection period. This is a consequence of a large projected increase in immigration in comparison to the historical period. In turn, this will help compensating for the demographic pressures on the labour force arising from the current wave of baby-boomers entering retirement.

Without immigration, there would be little or no growth in the Canadian labour force over the next decade. Because of the slowdown in the domestic sources of growth, new immigrants are anticipated to represent about 92% of the annual average net growth of the labour force over the projection period, up from 76% during the previous 10 years. In fact, starting in 2025, immigration is projected to account for 100% of the net growth in the labour force.

Although immigration is the primary source of net growth in the labour force, it is not expected to be the main source of new labour market entrants in Canada. School leavers will remain as the main source of new job seekers (see Figure 16)

At the occupational level, annual immigration is distributed among occupations based on the distribution level of recent immigrants (those landed between 2011 and 2015) observed in the 2016 Census and the variation in employment through time obtained from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) for the period 2006-2018 (2006 is the earliest year for which data on immigrants specifically is available in the LFS). Past or future immigration policies that could potentially change this distribution, such as the recent Express Entry program, are not explicitly considered in the projections. However, they are implicitly included in the labour force participation rates obtained from the LFS.

Over the projection period, occupations where the largest number of new immigrants will seek work are expected to be mainly concentrated in sales and services because there is lower skill requirements in these entry level occupations. This can be explained by two reasons:

Note that one occupation is in the information technology (IT) field (Information systems analysts and consultants). The skills typically required to work in IT related occupations tend to be more globalized and less regulated in Canada. As a result, Canadian companies can more easily recognize foreign credentials as well as have access a broader labour pool.

Table 2: Top 10 Occupations Where the Largest Number of New Immigrants are Expected to Look for Work, 2019-2028
NOC Occupations New Immigrants % 2018 Employment in the Occupation
6711 Food counter attendants, kitchen helpers and related support occupations 75,900 19.6%
6421 Retail salespersons 52,200 9.2%
6731 Light duty cleaners 47,400 19.3%
3413* Nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates & Other assisting occupations in support of health services 46,200 14.4%
6322 Cooks 39,500 21.3%
6611 Cashiers 38,200 11.4%
2171 Information systems analysts and consultants 34,200 11.4%
0621 Retail and wholesale trade managers 32,400 10.0%
7511 Transport truck drivers 29,400 9.2%
4411 Home child care providers 28,800 81.6%

Note 1: Occupations with a star are groupings of 4-digit occupations (including 3-digit occupations which are considered as groups of 4-digit occupations).
Note 2: Occupations in bold are those where at least 50% of their workers were women in 2018.

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

However, new immigrants represent a very important source of job seekers for many occupations, such as in those related to manufacturing, as well as sales and services. Six out of the 10 occupations with the highest projected proportion of new immigrants are in occupations usually requiring post-secondary education. Two of those are projected to be engineering occupations, while one will be a management occupation. Immigrants tend to be more educated than Canadian-born workers, which is why they usually join the labour market primarily in occupations requiring post-secondary education. IT occupations are also popular among immigrants; as mentioned previously, this is mainly because employers can recognize foreign credentials more easily than for other, more regulated, occupations. In three of these occupations, the majority of workers in 2018 were female.

Table 3: Top 10 Occupations Where New Immigrants are Expected to Represent the Largest Share of 2018 Employment in the Occupation, 2019-2028
NOC Occupations New Immigrants % of 2018 Employment in the Occupation
4411 Home child care providers 28,800 81.6%
9616* Labourers in textile processing & Other labourers in processing, manufacturing and utilities 12,000 78.0%
9617* Labourers in food and beverage processing & Labourers in fish and seafood processing 26,600 51.6%
7272 Cabinetmakers 2,200 48.1%
0113* Purchasing managers & Senior managers – health, education, social and community services and membership organizations 4,800 35.5%
9462 Industrial butchers and meat cutters, poultry preparers and related workers 6,800 30.5%
2173 Software engineers and designers 16,500 28.6%
6332 Bakers 9,500 27.2%
2147 Computer engineers (except software engineers and designers) 6,000 26.1%
6321 Chefs 15,100 25.3%

Note 1: Occupations with a star are groupings of 4-digit occupations (including 3-digit occupations which are considered as groups of 4-digit occupations).
Note 2: Occupations in bold are those where at least 50% of their workers were women in 2018.

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

On the other hand, Table 4 shows the top 10 occupations where the smallest number of new immigrants are expected to seek work over the period 2019 to 2028.

Table 4: Top 10 Occupations Where the Smallest Number of New Immigrants are Expected to Seek Work, 2019-2028
NOC Occupations New Immigrants % of 2018 Employment
4215 Instructors of persons with disabilities 300 4.24%
8220* Contractors and supervisors, mining, oil and gas 300 0.97%
8420* Logging and forestry workers 300 3.05%
7360* Train crew operating occupations 100 1.10%
7203* Contractors and supervisors, pipefitting trades 100 0.75%
8231 Underground production and development miners 100 0.38%
8260* Fishing vessel masters and fishermen/women 100 0.80%
8241 Logging machinery operators 100 0.53%
8211 Supervisors, logging and forestry 0 0.00%
8440* Other workers in fishing and trapping and hunting occupations 0 0.00%

Note 1: Occupations with a star are groupings of 4-digit occupations (including 3-digit occupations which are considered as groups of 4-digit occupations).
Note 2: Occupations in bold are those where at least 50% of their workers were women in 2018.

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Occupations where the smallest number of new immigrants are projected to seek work are mostly related to the trades sector and primary industries. This might be explained by a few reasons:

Note that only one of these occupations employed more than 50% of women in 2018.

Job Seekers from Occupational Mobility (Occupational Movers)

New inflows do not represent all the sources of labour into occupations. In many occupations, workers from other occupations represent an important source of hiring. Occupations lose existing workers, but also gain workers from other occupations. The difference between the number of workers entering and the number of workers leaving a given occupation is called net mobility. In this document, the term mobility always refers to net mobility in an occupation (or a skill level). In order to project future net mobility, observed past inter-occupational mobility patterns are used in conjunction with estimated future occupational labour demand to determine career paths that workers may follow over the projection period.

The COPS projections consider two types of occupational mobility:

  1. Vertical Mobility: workers who move into occupations outside their current skill level. Two are considered:
  2. Horizontal Mobility: workers who move into occupations within the same skill level (i.e. occupations that usually require the same level of education).

Figure 15 shows the projected number of workers moving between skill levels and their percentage share of 2018 Employment by skill level over the period 2019 to 2028.

Figure 15: Projected Number of Workers Moving Between Skill Level, 2019-2028

Bar figure showing the projected cumulative number of people moving between skill levels, in thousands and as a percentage share of the 2018 Employment for each skill level over the period 2019-2028. The data is shown on the link following this figure

Source: ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Text version of Figure 15: Projected Number of Workers Moving Between Skill Level, 2019-2028

Management occupations have the largest relative mobility inflows among all skill levels, as many experienced workers from other skill levels seek to fill management positions left vacant mainly due to retirement. Over the 2019-2028 period, almost 498,000 new managers are expected to come from occupations in other skill levels. Moreover, mobility is the main source of supply for managers. Over the coming decade, more workers are expected to go up the skill ladder to become a manager than established managers leaving for a non-managerial occupation.

Conversely, for those working in occupations requiring university education (skill level A), net mobility is expected to be negative (-198,000). This is due to the fact that workers in this skill level are the main source of labour for managerial occupations. Vacant positions in skill level A are either filled by workers from lower skill levels having a university education (who started working in a lower skilled level occupation before seeking work in a new position better reflecting their qualifications) or by school leavers with a university degree. It is also possible that these vacancies will remain unfilled in some occupations if there is a shortage of workers with the necessary skills and knowledge.

Net mobility in occupations requiring college education (skill level B) is expected to be positive (145,000). Although some university graduates start their career as technicians before leaving this skill level for job opportunities that better match their education level, many workers with a university or college degree start working in a lower skilled occupation (skill level C or D), before seeking work in a new position in a higher skill level. This is also reflected by about 446,000 workers expected to move up from lower-skilled occupations (levels C or D) in the coming decade.

Total Job Seekers

Figure 16 shows the sources of total new job seekers over the periods 1999 to 2008, 2009 to 2018 and 2019 to 2028. Even though new immigrants are expected to account for the majority of the net growth in the labour force over the next decade (see Figure 14), they will still represent a relatively small share of the total number of people who enter the Canadian labour market each year.

Figure 16: Sources of New Job Seekers: Totals

Bar figure showing the sources of cumulative new job seekers over the periods 1999-2008, 2009-2018 and 2019-2028. The data is shown on the link following this figure

Source: ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Text version of Figure 16: Sources of New Job Seekers: Totals

In fact, the number of young people coming out of Canada’s education system (with or without any certificate, high school, or a post-secondary diploma), the so-called school leavers, is much larger than the number of new immigrants:

Hence, as the Canadian education system is expected to remain the primary source of new job seekers for the labour market, it will be important to ensure that the qualifications of these job seekers properly reflect the labour market needs.

Note: In the chart, the category “Others” includes a series of small components capturing labour market inflows and outflows such as those returning to school, labour market returns, and students that seek work while being registered in education programs. This category was non-negligible in the past, but started to lose importance over recent years and is expected to continue this trend over the projection period.

Figure 17 shows the total new job seekers by skill level over the period 2019 to 2028. It is projected that a total of 6.3 million job seekers (from the school system, immigration and other sources) will enter the labour market over the projection period.

Figure 17: Job Seekers by Skill Level, Projection 2019-2028

Bar figure showing the cumulative job seekers from school leavers, immigrants, mobility and others, by skill level over the projection period 2019-2028. The data is shown on the link following this figure

Source: ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Text version of Figure 17: Job Seekers by Skill Level, Projection 2019-2028

Figure 17 shows that 6.7 million job seekers (from the school system, immigration and other sources) are projected to enter the labour market over the projection period. Two-thirds (67.2% - around 4.5 million individuals) of these entries are anticipated to be in occupations that usually require PSE (college, university or vocational) or in management occupations. At a more detailed level:

About one-third of job seekers (around 2.2 million) are expected to look for work in occupations typically requiring only high school education or on-the-job training.

Among the 10 occupations projected to have the largest proportion of job seekers, six of them are in the management area, where workers are usually older and closer to retirement. Most workers in management occupations have worked there way up over the course of their career. As a result, it is expected that a larger share of workers in such occupations will retire over the projection period, creating job openings that will require filling. For these occupations, mobility is expected to play an important role in the source of job seekers, as the majority of potential new managers are already in the labour market (see Table 5).

Table 5: Top 10 Occupations With the Largest Proportion of New Job Seekers , 2019-2028
NOC Occupations Employment 2018 New Job Seekers as a % of 2018 Employment
3011* Nursing co-ordinators and supervisors 34,000 75.8%
7272 Cabinetmakers 4,700 72.2%
0311 Managers in health care 31,100 70.8%
0113* Purchasing managers & Senior managers - health, education, social and community services and membership organizations 13,400 69.5%
0423 Managers in social, community and correctional serv. 41,600 66.5%
0632 Accommodation service managers 64,500 66.1%
0213 Computer and information systems managers 72,200 61.6%
2134 Chemical engineers 9,000 60.8%
4151 Psychologists 22,600 60.7%
0421 Administrators - post-secondary education and vocational training 12,500 57.1%

Note 1: Occupations with a star are groupings of 4-digit occupations (including 3-digit occupations which are considered as groups of 4-digit occupations).
Note 2: Occupations in bold are those where at least 50% of their workers were women in 2018.

Source: ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Table 6 shows that the ranking of the 10 occupations projected to have the largest number of new job seekers largely reflects the fact that most of these occupations are large occupations in terms of employment size. In fact, employment in those 10 occupations (out of 293 occupations) accounted for about 17.5% of total employment in 2018. Four out of these 10 occupations are related to sales and services.

Table 6: Top 10 Occupations With the Largest Number of New Job Seekers, 2019-2028
NOC Occupations Employment 2018 New Job Seekers New Job Seekers as a percent of 2018 Employment
3413/3414* Nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates & Other assisting occs. in support of health serv. 321,000 182,700 56.9%
3012 Registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses 314,300 154,600 49.2%
6711* Food counter attendants, kitchen helpers and related support occupations 386,700 128,300 33.2%
6421* Retail salespersons 566,700 117,100 20.7%
0621 Retail and wholesale trade managers 324,600 113,400 34.9%
6731 Light duty cleaners 245,900 108,700 44.2%
4032 Elementary school and kindergarten teachers 322,000 108,300 33.6%
2171 Information systems analysts and consultants 216,000 98,700 45.7%  
6411 Sales and account representatives - wholesale trade (non-technical) 248,700 97,300 39.1%
7511 Transport truck drivers 317,700 96,600 30.4%

Note 1: Occupations with a star are groupings of 4-digit occupations (including 3-digit occupations which are considered as groups of 4-digit occupations).
Note 2: Occupations in bold are those where at least 50% of their workers were women in 2018.

Source: ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

Finally, six of the 10 occupations projected to have the smallest ratios of new job seekers (total projected job seekers as a proportion of their respective 2018 employment) are classified as typically requiring only high-school education or on the job-training. These occupations are usually less attractive for job seekers as they are often less paid, have limited career advancement prospects and may be physically demanding.

Table 7: Top 10 Occupations With the Smallest Proportion of New Job Seekers, 2019-2028
NOC Occupations Employment 2018 New Job Seekers as a % of 2018 Employment
6521 Travel counsellors 17,300 1.0%
4411 Home child care providers 35,200 1.2%
9463 Fish and seafood plant workers 4,100 4.6%
4012 Post-secondary teaching and research assistants 76,100 10.9%
6512 Bartenders 38,500 11.8%
6621 Service station attendants 11,900 12.2%
8211 Supervisors, logging and forestry 7,200 13.1%
1422 Data entry clerks & Desktop publishing operators and related occupations 34,100 13.4%
2152* Landscape architects; Urban and land use planners & Land surveyors 14,100 13.5%
2222* Agricultural and fish products inspectors; Forestry technologists and technician & Conservation and fishery officers 16,100 13.8%

Note 1: Occupations with a star are groupings of 4-digit occupations (including 3-digit occupations which are considered as groups of 4-digit occupations).
Note 2: Occupations in bold are those where at least 50% of their workers were women in 2018.

Source: ESDC 2019 COPS Projections.

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