06/06/2018 15:04 EDT | Updated 06/06/2018 15:32 EDT

Job Vacancies In Canada Hit A Record High. So Why's It Getting Harder To Find Work?

"There is a growing jobs disconnect in Canada..."

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There was a record-high number of unfilled jobs in Canada in the first quarter of 2018, suggesting the country is seeing a historically significant labour shortage.

There was a record-high number of unfilled private-sector jobs in Canada in the first quarter of 2018, suggesting the country is seeing a historically significant labour shortage.

But some recent data also suggests it's taking longer for the unemployed to find work a contradiction that suggests Canadian workers and employers may be facing a skills mismatch.

According to the latest Help Wanted report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, there were 407,000 unfilled private-sector jobs in Canada in the first quarter of 2018, up from the previous record high of 399,000 jobs in the last quarter of 2017.

The national vacancy rate stood at three per cent, meaning three out of every 100 jobs were unfilled. That's up from 2.6 per cent in the same period a year earlier.

British Columbia had the highest vacancy rate, at 3.8 per cent, followed closely by Quebec, at 3.7 per cent, and Ontario at 3.2 per cent. Not coincidentally, these are also the provinces with the lowest unemployment rates in recent months.

The highest vacancy rate is in the "personal services" job category, which includes things such as domestic workers (housecleaners, cooks, au pairs) as well as jobs such as flight attendants and hairdressers. The industry with the lowest rate of open jobs was information, arts and recreation.

The vacancy rate in the oil, gas and mining sector was below the national average, at 2.4 per cent, suggesting the energy price rebound hasn't yet translated into hiring in the oil patch.

Yet despite the record job vacancies and the lowest national unemployment rate on records going back to to 1976, it appears to be getting harder for Canada's unemployed to find work.

A survey of unemployed Canadians aged 18 and over, carried out for Express Employment Professionals and released late last month, found that the average length of unemployment has now reached 19 months in Canada the highest rate in the survey's five-year history.

That's six months longer than it was in 2014, the survey found.

Watch: Canada's best and worst cities for job-hunters (story continues below)

And a larger share of the unemployed are giving up looking for work, the survey found, with 38 per cent agreeing with the statement "I've completely given up looking for a job." That's up from 32 per cent last year, and similar to levels seen in 2014 and 2015, when the oil price crash caused unemployment to spike in oil producing areas.

So what's going on here? According to some experts, the country is experiencing a skills mismatch the jobs available don't match the skills (or the interests) of the available work force, helping to explain how some 1.55 million Canadians remain on the unemployment rolls even amid record-high job vacancies.

"There is a growing jobs disconnect in Canada," said Bill Stoller, CEO of Express Employment Professionals, in a statement.

Earlier on HuffPost Canada:

"The number of 'help wanted' ads continues to rise, yet the jobless are giving up and staying unemployed longer. ... Rather than decreasing, barriers to re-enter the labour force appear to be increasing."

The Express survey was carried out by The Harris Poll, and surveyed 1,550 unemployed Canadians between March 28 and April 10 of this year. People who are retired, who chose to stay home, or were unable to work because of disability, were excluded from the survey.

The next major data release on Canadian employment comes Friday, when Statistics Canada releases its labour force survey for May. Bank of Montreal predicts the report will show an increase of 25,000 jobs in the month, with the jobless rate holding steady at its record low of 5.8 per cent.

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