Labour issues continue to be the biggest problem facing St. John’s businesses, according to a new poll from MQO research.
The poll of St. John’s Board of Trade members was released Thursday morning at the board’s annual Business Development Summit, at the Delta hotel.
“By far … labour issues stand as the biggest factor hindering companies’ economic growth in 2013, at 34 per cent,” said Carolyn O’Keefe, MQO’s president.
“By a large margin, labour issues will have more of an impact on a company’s success than factors such as economic downturn, increasing cost of production and government spending cuts.”
Members were also asked about their plans to hire in 2013 and expand their workforce.
About 48 per cent of member companies plan to hire, about the same amount plan to maintain the size of their workforces, and about three per cent expect to downsize.
“What it means for us is that there’s simply not enough workers to fill the vacancies, and we as employers will have to look at alternate means for recruiting employees,” O’Keefe told the audience of Board of Trade members.
O’Keefe told The Telegram that people are seeing a tightening of the labour market.
“There are more jobs than ever before. We know Newfoundland is booming and there’s just not enough people to take these jobs so it’s definitely the No. 1 issue for Board of Trade members and the business community at large, and it’s going to be one that we’re going to need to tackle over the next year.”
It’s not just hiring that employers need to worry about. Other aspects of MQO’s research polled workers and found that even though about two-thirds of employees (65 per cent) consider themselves either “likely” or “very likely” to remain with their current employer for the next five years, more than half of workers — 58 per cent — monitor current job postings for other opportunities.
“The danger here is that if something better came along, they might be inclined to pursue a new opportunity,” she said.
Employers need to look at their employees through a new lens and adapt their policies and procedures to attract and retain, she added.
Their ability to do so may also be severly tested by outmigration from the province.
“In the mid-1990s, we probably had about 10,000 people leaving our province each year to go to provinces such as Ontario and Alberta,” she said.
It’s a trend that continued well past the year 2000, and although the trend briefly appeared to reverse itself — the province gained 1,877 residents in 2008-09 and 1,558 in 2009-10 — another 1,556 people left Newfoundland and Labrador in 2011-12.
The gain in population — during a worldwide economic slowdown — can be credited both to people moving, or returning, to Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as fewer people leaving during the time period, but a return to net out-migration is worrisome, said O’Keefe.
MQO’s research also touched on consumer trends, and found:
‰ Confidence in the province’s economy is not as strong as it was in January 2012 but is still the highest in Atlantic Canada.
‰ Consumers are in many categories relying less on a business’s staff for product information and more on their own online research.
‰ Newfoundlanders and Labradors are increasingly open to buying products and services online, including major purchases such as appliances and furniture.