How to Use (and help our clients use!) Labour Market Information


By Lise Stransky.

Today, I decided to walk the talk.

Many of my clients come to me unhappy in their current role and ready to make a career transition. They often decide on new careers based on interest inventories or a desperation to get out of their current roles. They latch onto  new titles, confident they could be happier.

Most recently, one of my clients decided she wanted to move from HR to become either an esthetician or a personal organizer. While I applaud the decisive decision making, my first question to her was, “Have you done research on the labour market for this role?”

She had not. In fact, she wasn’t even quite sure what the labour market was.

According to Wikipedia, the labour market “functions through the interaction of workers and employers. Labor economics looks at the suppliers of labor services (workers), the demands of labor services (employers), and attempts to understand the resulting pattern of wages, employment, and income.

In economics, labor is a measure of the work done by human beings. It is conventionally contrasted with such other factors of production as land and capital. There are theories which have developed a concept called human capital (referring to the skills that workers possess, not necessarily their actual work).”

As career practitioners, we know that labour market information defines:

  • What skills employers are looking for
  • Which industries are hiring and where they are located
  • Where to find employers who are hiring
  • What working conditions are like for specific industries
  • What education and training you need for specific jobs
  • Which factors can stop you from getting a job
  • Which job areas are growing in the future, and other statistics

The labour market is a critical factor in career decision making, yet, anecdotally, it seems that most people don’t consider this crucial source of information when planning their employment path.

I decided to see what the labour market looks like on a Canadian national level for career development practitioners, both to test my research skills and to see what the future looks like for our profession.

My first stop was As I started typing “Career,” three titles auto-filled for me: “career development counsellor,” “career consultant,” and “career counsellor – except education,” all with the NOC code 4213. I opted for career development counsellor, which brought me to NOC 4213-B, Employment Counsellors.

In the Calgary Region, where I live, I learned that the employment outlook for Employment Counsellors is expected to be fair (2 out of 3 stars) for 2014-2016. This is based on anticipated moderate employment growth, considerable retirement numbers, and recent high levels of unemployment in this occupation.

Saskatoon, Outaouais Region, Laurentides Region, Lanaudiere Region, Winnipeg, Vancouver Island/Coast Region, and Kootenay Region are all expected to have 3 out of 3 stars – the employment outlook is expected to be good. The majority of the other reporting regions of Canada have an undetermined outlook.

I then went to the Government of Alberta website and found the occupational demand and supply outlook for 2013-2023. In 2017, the demand forecast predicts that my province will have a cumulative shortage of 41 for Employment Counsellors. By 2023, that number falls slightly to 39.

So, what I have I learned about Labour Market Information?

  1. It is utterly overwhelming.
  2. According to the wee bit of research I did, it looks like there is not a great demand for Employment Counsellors.
  3. I need to understand what resources are most relevant when advising clients of labour market information, having just walked the talk myself.
  4. It is tough to process and understand.
  5. It is a piece of the career decision making puzzle.
  6. I first need to learn more to find a way to help my clients understand this.
  7. It should not be the sole piece of information in making a career decision.

I also learned that the following occupations have a forecasted Alberta labour shortage of more than 1,000 workers  by 2023. (But, I wonder, are these forecasts still relevant, given the current economic downturn that no one expected?)

  • Managers in retail trade (NOC A21)
  • Clerical occupations, general office skills (NOC B51)
  • Civil, mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineers (NOC C03)
  • Computer and information systems professionals (NOC C07)
  • Physicians, dentists, and veterinarians (NOC D01)
  • Nurse supervisors and registered nurses (NOC D11)
  • Chefs and cooks (NOC G41)
  • Occupations in food and beverage services (NOC G51)
  • Heavy equipment operators (NOC H61)
  • Motor vehicle and transit drivers (NOC H71)
  • Trades helpers and labourers (NOC H82)

The economy, skills shortages, immigration, and demographics of the workforce each play an important role in labour market trends, which in turn play an important role in career decisions. Labour market information, along with skills, values, interests, needs, and wants, should be taken into consideration in career and career transition decision making.

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You make some important points. As counsellors, we should all be willing to test the advice we give our clients. I always recommend strongly to clients who are seeking career information that they use Google as well, to both look for websites from professional associations related to their field of interest, as well as seek out news items about that field.

Finally — most importantly — clients should be encouraged to network and gather information about their field of interest from multiple people. That is still the most authentic and unfiltered source of current career information.

Thanks Karin. It is so true that we should take time to test the advice we give to clients, lift our heads up from the coaching and counselling we give, and ensure it is still relevant! There are so many incredible resources available – our public library has an incredible collection of resources for career researchers and job seekers to use, and Calgary Economic Development has lists of company directories – a gold mine of information!

While you made some good points, I would like to share a bit more: LMI sources need to be diverse as most sources are either outdated and/or bias towards an interest (from the source originating or processing that LMI). This means that apart from the most “traditional” sources such as government based or funded websites, we also need to encourage clients to look for real jobs and teach them to read them properly. Informational interviews with people already working in those professions and employers is also as relevant or even more relevant that any outlooks (i.e. “predictions”) out there.
Finally, clients need to develop a critical eye (in a classroom, this can be done with some brainstorming exercises) to see what affects their particular industry and occupation or profession: from legislation, public pressure, funding, political structures, technology/automation trends, etc to unpredictable events faraway (i.e. “Brexit”, immigration increase due to climate change or wars, etc), all affect their particular LMI in different ways.

Great points, Silvia. I have had many clients who have worked for decades in their chosen occupation, without lifting their heads to see what has been affecting their industry, occupation or profession. Most recently, this has impacted thousands of people in Alberta, as the price of oil dropped. One way to be proactive about one’s career is to ensure lifelong learning, continuing professional development, always be networking, and ‘sniffing the cheese’ (so to speak. If you have read the lovely fable about organizational change, WHO MOVED MY CHEESE?, you will understand this reference). When considering change, or exploring a choice to launch a career, LMI really is only one piece of the puzzle.

Excellent article! This is the most honestly written piece I’ve seen on LMI and the challenges of knowing whether to trust it and how to incorporate it.

I agree LMI is one of the tools that should be considered but merely one of many. I actually cringed a few days ago when someone stated definitely that ones work search must focus on what is in demand. That may be true but only up to a point and he did not also say that one must want to do that.

Solution: a detailed and in depth career exploration to discover if the work is suitable for your skills values and interests as well as a viable option. For example one may aspire to become a deep sea diver but job prospects will be limited if you need to remain in Calgary AB. Being a shepherd on the other hand may be a real option as long as you like goats

Excellent article Lise. I think I’m going to take up the challenge myself to find LMI on resume writers 🙂