OTTAWA - Canadian firms appear to be preparing for hard and uncertain economic times, the Bank of Canada says in a business outlook survey released Monday.

The bank's quarterly survey of top executives at 100 firms across the country shows a corporate sector that is far more concerned about the future than it was only three months ago, and planning accordingly.

The survey shows a general tempering on expectations for sales, investments and hiring, the bank said.

There was one positive in the results, as firms and loan officers reported generally easing credit conditions, but it is doubtful many business will be taking advantage.

"The results of the autumn survey suggest that, in an environment of slow global economic growth and uncertainty about demand, firms have tempered their expectations for business activity," the bank said.

"Firms are generally more circumspect about near-term investment decisions and are focusing on minimizing costs."

The central bank said firms exposed to the weak global economy were the most likely to report diminished expectations for future sales, particularly those in the manufacturing sector.

Meanwhile, commodity demand and the steady domestic economy were factors for optimism among executives, the bank said.

The survey findings are expected to play a role in the central bank's upcoming monetary policy decision and new economic forecast, both of which will be released next week. Most economists are anticipating governor Mark Carney to keep interest rates unchanged, while lowering expectations for growth even further.

On most questions in the survey released Monday, business executives were more pessimistic than they had been three months ago.

On sales expectations, there were as many who anticipated volumes to slow from the pace of the previous 12 months as pick up — only the second time since mid-2009 that expectations were not positive.

On investment intentions, a key marker for economic growth, the results were only marginally better: 37 per cent said they planned to increase the pace of investment in the next 12 months, while 29 per cent said they plan to spend less.

The eight percentage point positive balance of opinion was one-third the level of the July survey.

More firms said they intended to add workers over the next 12 months than those that planned to reduce staff, but even here the balance of opinion in favour of hiring was half as strong as in the summer survey.

"Intentions to increase employment softened in all regions," the bank said. "A number of firms cited productivity gains from recent capital projects, efforts to reduce costs or demand conditions as factors influencing their hiring intentions."

Somewhat surprisingly, a slightly higher percentage of firms reported that labour shortages were restricting their ability to meet demand. Those firms tended to be in central and eastern Canada and said the difficulty rested in finding workers with specific skills.

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  • 7. Huge Regional Disparities

    Wood Mountain (includes oil rich Fort McMurray, pictured here) saw its employment level shoot up by 95% over the 2000 to 2011 period, while forestry based Miramichi suffered the biggest decline of 63% in job numbers.<br> <br> Two out of 33 Census Metropolitan Areas (Windsor and Thunder Bay) had fewer jobs in 2011 than in 2000 while 13 of 45 smaller cities were in this situation. In 2011, only 5.5% of the labour force in Wood Mountain were unemployed while 16.4% were unemployed in Miramichi.<br> <br> -- <a href="http://peoplepatternsconsulting.com/pub_can_job12.html" target="_hplink">People Patterns Consulting</a>

  • 6. Jobs Up, Wages Down

    The unemployment rate jumped from a near record low of 6.1% in October 2008 to a high of 8.7% high in August 2009 and has declined slowly since then to 7.2% in March 2012. In spite of the recovery, unemployment duration increased again in 2011.<br> <br> There was a another slight decrease in the number of discouraged job searchers in 2011, who just quit looking because they believed that nothing suitable was available, but their numbers were still 50% above pre-recession levels. Actual hours worked at all jobs advanced to 36.4 hours in 2011 up 24 minutes from the all-time low of 36 hours in 2009.<br> <br> Real (after removing inflation) average weekly wages fell by 0.5% in 2011 following an increase of only 0.2% in 2010. This helps explain why the number of workers who have more than one job climbed for a third straight year to a record 5.4% in 2011. Women (6.4%) are now more likely to have a second job than are men (4.5%) while both were the same (4.6%) in 1989.<br> <br> -- <a href="http://peoplepatternsconsulting.com/pub_can_job12.html" target="_hplink">People Patterns Consulting</a>

  • 5. Bad News For Working Parents

    In 2011, the employment rate for lone-parent mothers (55%), lone-parent fathers (79%) and mothers with an employed husband present (70%) all with children under the age of six continued to be below their prerecession peaks. The only exception in 2011 was for women with a non-employed husband for whom the employment rate (53%) was above the pre-recession rate.<br> <br> The "monetary" value of childcare remains undervalued. In 2011, childcare and home support workers working full-time (30 hours or more per week) earned an average of $598 per week. This was the third lowest behind full-time chefs and cooks ($545) and retail sales persons ($589). On a more detailed level, babysitters, nannies and parent helpers were the lowest paid occupation from among over 700 occupations in the 2006 Census.<br> <br> -- <a href="http://peoplepatternsconsulting.com/pub_can_job12.html" target="_hplink">People Patterns Consulting</a>

  • 4. Manufacturing Still Struggling

    After eight years of decline, the manufacturing sector created only 15,900 jobs in 2011. Employment in 2011 was about where it was in 1993 and down by 532,200 jobs since the peak in 2004.<br> <br> Based on employment growth over the 2000 to 2011 period, the most rapidly expanding industries in Canada were mining and oil and gas extraction (+70.3%) and construction (+56.4%). Other leading growth industries (all service related) included professional, scientific, technical services (+39.9%), health care and social assistance (+37.9%) and real estate and leasing (+30.1%). <br> <br> -- <a href="http://peoplepatternsconsulting.com/pub_can_job12.html" target="_hplink">People Patterns Consulting</a>

  • 3. Labour Shortages

    For 2011 as a whole, eight (35%) out of the 23 major occupations were in a shortage situation, compared to six occupations in the previous year but still much less than the 10 occupations before the recession began. When examined from an industry basis, there were shortages in five (25%) of the 20 sectors in 2011, up from four during the previous year. <br> <br> In 2011, the unemployment rate among professional occupations in health, nurse supervisors and registered nurses stood at only 0.8%. Unemployment was only 1.9% in technical, assisting and related occupations in health and in professional occupations in business and finance. Demographics point to more shortages in the medium-term.<br> <br> -- <a href="http://peoplepatternsconsulting.com/pub_can_job12.html" target="_hplink">People Patterns Consulting</a>

  • 2. Alberta - The Youth Job-Bringer

    Based on a ranking of 10 youth related indicators, Alberta was the best place for youth in 2011 followed by Saskatchewan in 2nd spot and Quebec in 3rd spot. Next in line were Manitoba (4th), Prince Edward Island (5th), British Columbia (6th), Ontario (7th), New Brunswick (8th), Newfoundland (9th) and Nova Scotia (10th).<br> <br> At the national level, recession is still the reality for youth. Youth employment plummeted by 195,400 jobs in 2009 and 2010 combined but only 19,300 jobs came back in 2011. In 2011, employment rates for all youth slipped further to 55.4% (lowest since 2000), was flat for returning students working in the summer (53.8%) but down a lot for full-time students who were working during the school year (36.6%). <br> <br> In 2011, the unemployment rate improved slightly for all youth (14.2%) but worsened for returning students working in the summer (17.4%).<br> <br> -- <a href="http://peoplepatternsconsulting.com/pub_can_job12.html" target="_hplink">People Patterns Consulting</a>

  • 1. A Greying Workforce

    More and more seniors are working longer. The percentage of those aged 60-64 who are employed rose from 34% in 1989 to 47% in 2011 ... a new record. The percentage of those aged 65-69 who are still working jumped from 11% in 1989 to 23% in 2011 ... another new record. The percentage of the 70 and over group who are still working increased to 6% in 2011 ... one more record high. <br> <br> Over the 1989 to 2011 period, the labour force aged 45-54 more than doubled (+108%), those aged 55-64 also more than doubled (+133%) while those aged 65 and older grew even faster (+180%). <br> <br> The recession delayed retirement for many, as record numbers of persons 60 and older remained in the paid workforce. The median retirement age among men (63.2 years) rose for a third consecutive year in 2011 and was the highest since 2003. The median age of retirement among women increased to 61.4 years in 2011 and is the second highest since 1994.<br> <br> -- <a href="http://peoplepatternsconsulting.com/pub_can_job12.html" target="_hplink">People Patterns Consulting</a>


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  • 20: Australia

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 19: South Korea

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 18: Saudi Arabia

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 17: Belgium

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 16: Austria

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 15: Norway

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 14: Canada

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 13: Taiwan

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 12: Denmark

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 11: Qatar

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 10: Japan

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 9: Hong Kong

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 8: United Kingdom

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 7: United States

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 6: Germany

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 5: Netherlands

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 4: Sweden

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 3: Finland

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 2: Singapore

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>

  • 1: Switzerland

    Source: <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/CSI/2012-13/GCR_Rankings_2012-13.pdf" target="_hplink">World Economic Forum</a>