Public vs. Private Hiring Rates and What They Mean for You

Canada’s public sector has far outpaced its private sector over the past decade when it comes to job growth. Whether you’re a job seeker or an employer competing for today’s top talent, you should be aware of the government versus private hiring landscape in the province and across the nation.

A June 2015 study showed that employment in Canada’s public sector grew by 22.6 percent between 2003 and 2013. By contrast, private sector jobs grew at a rate of 10.7 percent during the same period.

  • The difference is even more prominent in Ontario, where public sector jobs grew by 26.7 percent, versus 5.6 percent in the private sector. Manufacturing companies in the province continued to struggle, as they were broadsided by a higher Canadian dollar, along with increased taxes and energy prices.
  • Provinces with resource-based economies saw stronger increases in private-sector job growth. The smallest gap between the two was in Alberta, where there was a 31.9 percent rise in public sector employment and a 29.3 percent rise in private sector jobs.
  • Only one province – Newfoundland – saw more growth in private sector employment. Growth during the 10-year period was 14 percent in the private sector arena versus 11.8 in the public sector.

Public Sector Employment on the Rise

The study defines public employees as those who work for any level of government, for a government service or agency, for a Crown corporation, or for a government-funded organization. It is at the local level and in indirect jobs, such as schools and hospitals, where much of Canada’s job growth has occurred. Meanwhile, direct government employment at the provincial level grew by only three percent across the country in the same period.

  • Municipal government jobs saw an astounding 73 percent growth rate for the decade. This encompassed police officer and firefighter positions, as well as anyone else employed by cities.
  • Other key growth areas included health and social services, at 25 percent, and school boards, at 36 percent.

At the federal level, the number of civil servants increased steadily during the 2000s, but has since been dropping, from 282,980 in 2010 to 257,138 in 2014. Overall public sector workers made up 26.1 percent of the nation’s total workforce in 1992. This number fell to 22.3 percent in 2003 and then climbed to 24.4 percent in 2010, before retreating slightly in the ensuing years.

Wages and Benefits Also Better in the Public Sector

What’s more, government workers in Ontario are paid an average of 11.5 percent more than their private sector counterparts. Factor in unionization, and this difference falls to a still-significant 8.5 percent. Non-wage benefits also were better for those working for the government. For instance:

  • In 2013, 77.3 percent of Ontario government workers were covered by pension plans, compared to only 25.6 percent of those in the private sector.
  • Between 2009 and 2013, government workers were able to retire 1.4 years earlier on average than private-sector employees.
  • In 2013, 3.8 percent of Canadians working in the private sector lost their jobs. This compares to 0.8 percent of government employees.

The Employment Professionals Canada team of recruiters and workforce experts can help you stay abreast of the latest provincial, national and global developments pertinent to the employment sector. Read our related posts or contact us today to access our tips, resources and contacts.