WHAT IS LABOUR MARKET INFORMATION?

Labour Market Information is information about the world of work, including information about different types of work and learning opportunities. It also includes labour market trends and forecasts about future employment growth.

You may not be familiar with the term even though you run into aspects of labour market information all the time: in casual conversations, on talk shows, in the news. When you hear that an organization is hiring or downsizing, that is labour market information. When you learn about different types of work, that is labour market information. When you find out that some industries are growing faster than others, that is labour market information.

Labour market information can help you:

  • find work - It can help you to tap into the hidden job market—the majority of job openings that aren’t advertised. Information about who is hiring or who may be hiring in the near future helps you focus your job search.
  • choose an education or training program - Finding out which training credentials employers are looking for and where suitable programs are offered is an important part of making a wise choice when it comes to choosing a program.
  • choose an occupation - If you are going to spend time and money preparing for an occupation, it’s worthwhile to do some research first. What is a typical day on the job like? How good are the employment prospects? What is the average salary range?

Where can labour market information be found?

  • Labour market information can come from many sources. Sometimes it is right in front of you.
  • Talk to people who work in your area of interest. They may know of job openings or be able to recommend appropriate training programs.
  • Watch news programs and career-focused programs like Careers Help TV. Take note of industries and occupations they are profiling as a way to gather specific occupational information.
  • Check out our Labour Market Bulletins to see what’s happening in the local area.

Other times, you might have to deliberately seek out information that is current and relevant to the career, education or employment decision you are making.

Feature articles in newspapers may describe a labour market trend. The article itself may not provide you with all the answers to your questions but it may give you a clue to a growing industry and that may mean more job openings in your area.

Remember, current information is your best ally in a constantly changing world of work.

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Labour Market Information: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Every week, we hear stories about the job situation in different industries and how some occupations are growing and others are not. The following tip will help you to interpret this labour market information and decide how much weight to give it when you are making career decisions.

Question information about the labour market. Asking one question will often lead to other questions.

When you read an article about labour market trends, ask questions like:

  • How will these trends impact the local economy?
  • What opportunities might they create?
  • If people are making predictions, ask yourself:
  • What are they basing their predictions on?
  • Have they taken recent events into consideration?
  • Is it clear how they got from the present to the future?
  • Are their predictions believable?

Question the credibility of each source, the purpose of the information, where it came from and how conclusions were reached. For example, has the information been developed to attract investors? What other purpose might the authors have? Be very skeptical about claims that sound too good to be true like “A thousand new jobs have just become available” or “Work from the comfort of your own home.”

Check the date to make sure information is current. Information with general time frames like “in the next few decades” and “in the future” may not be much help to you.

Check the location of sources to make sure information is relevant to your situation. Information from American sources may not apply in Canada. Look for labour market information that is relevant to where you plan to be in a few years as well as where you are now.

Consult a number of information sources. If you are thinking about taking a training program, talk to people employed in the field. Compare what they tell you with information provided by post-secondary institutions.

Separate occupational information from industry information. An occupation has typical duties and responsibilities that require specific knowledge and skills. An industry is a group of related workplaces. The same occupation may be required in a number of industries. For example, sales representatives and human resource managers work in many different industries.

Interpret statistics carefully. Suppose you were presented with the following statistical information about the rates at which two occupations are growing. Which occupation do you think will have more job openings?

  • Physiotherapists—increase of 100 per cent
  • Plumbers—increase of 10 per cent

The answer depends on the number of positions currently in place. For example, if there are 100 physiotherapists in your community, then a 100 per cent increase means that 100 new jobs will be created. If there are 1,000 plumbers in your community, then a 10 per cent increase means 100 new jobs. The number of new jobs created will be about the same in both occupations.

Interpret salary information carefully too. Factors such as job location or the nature of the work may have a huge impact on earnings. Whether the work is seasonal or permanent makes a big difference. Emerging occupations may offer relatively high salaries when there is a skill shortage but salaries may level off as skilled labour becomes available. Also consider regional differences. Wages are often a lot higher in communities that are booming but the cost of living in those communities may also be higher.

Always check how a list was produced. Top 100 lists or lists of industries by size are often based on revenue, not employment. Publicly funded organizations such as government and education institutions are considered not-for-profit and would not make a Top 100 list based on revenue. Yet they are the largest employers in some communities.

Find out where forecasted work opportunities are likely to be located. Some specialized types of work are only available in locations such as large urban centres or remote locations.

Be careful, but don’t be so critical that you end up questioning everything. Even labour market information with shortcomings may have some useful nuggets of information. It could lead you in a new direction.

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Labour Market Information: Sources

Labour market information is the information you need to make sound decisions about your future. It includes information about occupational options, training programs, employment opportunities, industry growth and anything else you might want to know before making an employment-related decision.

This article groups sources of labour market information into two categories:

  • Word of mouth

One of the most popular ways to gather labour market information is to talk to:

o family members, friends, neighbours, co-workers and others you meet as you go about your daily life

o contact the local Chamber of Commerce

o people at trade shows, conferences and seminars

o others who work in occupations or industries that interest you

o Don’t be shy. Ask people if they have any suggestions about where you might find the information you need. Most people are happy to share their knowledge or refer you to someone else who might know.

o Talking to people is an excellent way to verify and expand information you have already gathered from other sources. If you have read about an interesting occupation, you may want to get the full, inside story by talking to people who actually work in that occupation. Or you may want to get the inside scoop on what it is like to work for a particular employer.

  • Print sources

o Checkout the local Chamber of Commerce website

o Trade magazines publish articles and advertisements related to a specific field. To find relevant trade publications, ask at your local public library or talk to people in a related professional association or union.

o Non-fiction books may provide more detailed labour market information. For example, futurists look at trends in society and the workplace and try to predict what will happen in the future.

o Professional associations prepare reports about wage levels and working conditions and predict employment needs for specific occupations.

o Depository libraries have copies of studies, reports and other documents produced by publicly funded organizations such as Statistics Canada and economic development offices. For information about depository libraries in your area, call your local library.

o The career and business sections of newspapers often have articles about economic, industry and business trends. You can also learn a lot about which companies are hiring and which occupations are currently in demand by reading advertisements in the classified section and the rest of the paper.

Since people and publishers often have different points of view, it is a good idea to verify information by consulting more than one source. The best approach is to listen to what people say but also do some research.