01/12/2019 12:40 EST | Updated 01/14/2019 14:12 EST

Best Places To Find Work In Canada Are Not The Biggest Cities These Days

This may be the right time to move to some of Canada’s smaller, more affordable cities.

Bolognium via Wikimedia Commons
A panoramic view of the London, Ont., skyline. The city ranks 10th in Bank of Montreal's latest regional labour market report card.

Canada's largest cities are doing a solid job of attracting new businesses and new jobs, but these days, they are being outdone by their smaller cousins.

The Bank of Montreal's labour market report card for the fourth quarter of 2018 found that Canada's four largest metros — Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary — all declined in the rankings.

Watch: Should Canadians be worried about a recession in 2019? Story continues below.

At the top of the heap was Guelph, Ont., a relatively small city southwest of Toronto. It boasts an incredible 2.3-per-cent unemployment rate.

That "reflects a strong Ontario service/tech sector and spillover from the Greater Toronto labour market," BMO economist Robert Kavcic wrote.

Other southern Ontario cities are also benefiting from the "spillover" of Toronto's economic boom, such as Kitchener-Waterloo, London and Peterborough, all of which make the top 10. The same thing is likely playing out in British Columbia, where some cities in the interior are seeing "spillover" from Vancouver.

Earlier on HuffPost Canada:

It's not that Canada's largest cities are doing badly on jobs; dig into the numbers and they're still strong. It's just that these smaller cities have put in a better performance recently.

One notable thing these days is how similar the regional job markets look. Ordinarily, the story is one of some regions doing well while others struggle. But not so much these days.

"Convergence remains a theme, with Alberta and Atlantic Canada sturdy, though unspectacular," Kavcic wrote. "Note that no province is seeing job growth better than 1.9 per cent year over year while, at the same time, no province is seeing job declines of worse than 1.4 per cent — that's a tight range."

Job quality improving

What these statistics don't reflect very well is the quality of jobs being created. We know that Canada has seen the rise of precarious work, even among professionals. Contract work and part-time work has become a common theme.

But to the extent the stats do tell us something about this, it's good news.

All of Canada's net job growth over the past year has been in full-time work, while part-time work has been flat. In many parts of the country part-time work declined as full-time work grew — a sign employers are turning low-quality jobs into better ones.

So take advantage of the good times. History tells us they won't last forever. Here are the 10 best cities in Canada to find work, according to BMO's labour market report card.

10. London, Ont.

benedek via Getty Images
Richmond Street in downtown London.

Jobless rate: 5%

Year-over-year job growth: 3.2%

Ranking a year ago: 23

London is pivoting from being a manufacturing economy to a high-tech one, but auto plants and other factories still figure prominently. A lower Canadian dollar in recent years has helped those businesses export more, and the construction industry has been busy, thanks to solid population growth.

9. Oshawa, Ont.

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Simcoe Street in downtown Oshawa.

Jobless rate: 5.8%

Year-over-year job growth: 4.9%

Ranking a year ago: 28

Yup, the city that just lost its famed General Motors assembly plant has made the list. The GM shutdown will no doubt damage the job market, but these days, Oshawa has three higher-ed institutions, a network of health care facilities and a busy home construction industry doing the heavy lifting on job growth. The city is well positioned to withstand the hit from GM's closure at the end of 2019.

8. Edmonton

(c) HADI ZAHER via Getty Images
Buildings overlooking the North Saskatchewan River Valley in Edmonton.

Jobless rate: 6.3%

Year-over-year job growth: 3.6%

Ranking a year ago: 13

Edmonton's job market has performed better than Calgary's in recent years, largely because its economy is less directly reliant on oil. Health care, education and public administration are big employers here, but the recent volatility in oil prices likely won't spare the city entirely, as its manufacturing and warehousing businesses rely on oil and gas.

7. Peterborough, Ont.

KevinDerrick via Getty Images
The tallest jet fountain in Canada, with the City of Peterborough in the background.

Jobless rate: 5.2%

Year-over-year job growth: 7.8%

Ranking a year ago: 20

Peterborough's once-thriving manufacturing base is long past its prime, but some of it still remains. Today, its largest employers are its health care and education institutions, and tourism figures prominently as well. The city is increasingly a "bedroom suburb" for commuters from Greater Toronto.

6. Abbotsford, B.C.

Dllu via Wikimedia Commons
The view from Whatcom Rd. at McKee Rd. in Abbotsford, B.C., looking towards the city of Mission.

Jobless rate: 4.5%

Year-over-year job growth: 4.3%

Ranking a year ago: 17

Though it's something of an exurb of Greater Vancouver, Abbotsford has an economy of its own as well, with a presence in lumber, aerospace and the film and TV industry. It's also benefited from a housing boom that may or may not be on its last legs.

5. Halifax

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The harbourfront in Halifax, N.S.

Jobless rate: 5.7%

Year-over-year job growth: 5.1%

Ranking a year ago: 26

Halifax's economy has gotten a boost from shipbuilding contracts for the Canadian Navy, but it's also becoming a tech and startup hub. Immigrants and entrepreneurs have been attracted to the city for its affordable living costs, proximity to water and lack of big-city traffic jams.

4. Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont.

SunDre87 via Getty Images
The view from the Uptown Loop Trail in Waterloo, Ont.

Jobless rate: 5.1%

Year-over-year job growth: 4.8%

Ranking a year ago: 16

K-W has been one of Canada's most important tech hubs for years, but that's just one part of the region's success story. In recent years, it has become a popular destination for Torontonians looking to set up shop in a more affordable housing market.

3. Kelowna, B.C.

AlbertPego via Getty Images
Sunset over Okanagan Lake, Kelowna, B.C.

Jobless rate: 3.3%

Year-over-year job growth: 0.4%

Ranking a year ago: 2

Like some southern Ontario cities, the B.C. interior has benefitted from the spread of wealth from Vancouver. Kelowna's economy has also seen a booming tech sector that has grown at an average of 15 per cent per year in recent years.

2. Saskatoon

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The Saskatoon skyline overlooking the South Saskatchewan River.

Jobless rate: 5.6%

Year-over-year job growth: 5.4%

Ranking a year ago: 22

Like much of the Prairies, Saskatoon's economy has been held back by weakness in the oil and gas sector, but its manufacturing has held up nicely. That, combined with solid population growth, means the region added 5.4 per cent new jobs in just the past year.

1. Guelph, Ont.

David J. Sullivan via Wikimedia Commons
Guelph as seen from the corner of Norfolk St. and Quebec St.

Jobless rate: 2.3%

Year-over-year job growth: 0.8%

Ranking a year ago: 21

Guelph has seen a very strong manufacturing sector in recent years, combined with an influx of new residents, many of them Torontonians looking for more affordable housing. That has out the city's economy into overdrive, giving it a 2.3-per-cent unemployment rate, far and away the lowest in the country.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story indicated that Guelph is northwest of Toronto. It is actually southwest of Toronto.