10/10/2013 03:49 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

1 in 6 new medical specialists say they're jobless

About 16 per cent of newly graduated medical specialists in Canada say they can't find work, according to a new report suggesting that the economy, hospital resources and personal preferences are driving the unemployment problem.

For Thursday's report from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, titled Too Many, Too Few Doctors? What’s Really Behind Canada’s Unemployed Specialists? researchers interviewed more than 40 people with in-depth knowledge and conducted an online survey.

Among respondents, 208 or 16 per cent reported being unable to secure employment, compared with 7.1 per cent of all Canadians as of August.

The report's authors said there were three main drivers:

- More physicians competing for fewer resources such as operating rooms and hospital beds at the same time that relatively weak stock market performance meant many specialists were delaying their retirement.

- Slower job growth for specialists as the health-care system in some cases substitutes other health professionals — such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants — for physicians. Established specialists may also be reluctant to share resources such as operating room time.

- Lack of adequate career counselling and personal choices about type and location of practice when new graduates have family responsibilities (spousal employment, caring for children or elderly parents) that make it harder to move to job opportunities.

Half of respondents in 2012 said they hadn't received any career counselling.

About 31 per cent of new specialists said they chose not to enter the job market but instead pursued more training, which they hoped would make them more employable.

Just under 20 per cent of recently certified specialists said they'd look for work outside of Canada, which could promote a "brain drain" to the U.S., the report's authors said.