Canada is losing jobs – but the economy is losing more workers for retirement too

More than a year after the Great Retirement took place in the United States, Canada is grappling with its own gray version: The Great Retirement.

Canada’s workforce grew in August, but it has fallen in the past two months and has remained lower than it was before the summer as tens of thousands of people simply stopped working. And Statistics Canada said much of this can be attributed to more Canadians retired than ever before.

It’s not just the 65-and-up crowd who pack their desks and attach their tool belts. Agency data shows that a record number of Canadians aged 55 to 64 are now reporting their retirement in the past 12 months.

Economists say this is speeding up a mass exodus of Canada’s most skilled workers — sending companies scrambling, helping raise wages sharply and threatening to dent the country’s sluggish productivity.

“We’ve known for a long time that this wave is coming, and that we will get to this moment,” said Jamie Jane, chief economist at Desjardins group. “It will only intensify in the coming years.

“The risk you are facing – and in some sectors you are already seeing – is that people are leaving without enough young workers to take over. So there is a loss of human capital and knowledge.”

Pandemic Latest Some Retirement Plans

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of retirements has fallen as many Canadians decide to stay in their jobs longer. With restrictions now lifted, many are rushing to make up for lost time, choosing to travel and spend more time with family.

Their departure is shrinking the workforce, which could affect economic growth at a time when the central bank is aggressively raising interest rates to counter soaring inflation, raising fears that the economy will fall into a recession.

Canada — which has ramped up immigration to help drive economic growth — has the largest working-age population, as a percentage of the total population, of the G7, but at the same time its workforce is not the oldest, according to Statistics Canada. One in five workers in Canada is 55 or older.

There were 307,000 Canadians in August who left their jobs in order to retire sometime last year, up 31.8 percent from the previous year and 12.5 percent higher than in August 2019, before the outbreak of the pandemic. He said.

Adding to the problem, more than 620,000 Canadians entered the 65+ age group during the pandemic, a 9.7 percent increase in that population group. Despite three consecutive months of job losses, vacancies and hiring remain well above pre-pandemic levels.

Nurses and truck drivers

The problem of retirement is especially serious in skill-requiring fields such as crafts and nursing. Since May, Canada has lost 34,400 healthcare jobs even with a record number of nurses reporting working overtime.

These weren’t jobs being eliminated, but rather retired, said Catherine Hoy, president of the Ontario Nurses Association.

“It’s a big problem right now, because we have a lot of people who have retired unexpectedly,” she said, citing the pandemic, working conditions and a wage dispute with Canada’s largest province.

The transportation industry is also grappling with a severe labor shortage, due to the pandemic-driven frenzy of more goods and as the workforce ages.

“More and more drivers are getting older, and therefore retiring or considering a different lifestyle,” said Tony Ridder, owner of Trans Canada College, a vocational college that trains transport truck drivers.

At the same time, demand is booming from trucking companies, many of which take students on on-the-job courses and then hire them outright once they have a full license, Reeder said.

“Without trucks and people driving the trucks… the goods will remain in the ports and warehouses instead of reaching the destination where they can be consumed,” he said.