Academic Literature

Job Search in Canada – 12% are looking for a new job while working against 5% 20 years ago

Workers may want to change jobs for any number of reasons, which are not always related to poor working conditions. The criteria used to determine what defines a “better job” differs from one person to another, and evolves through different stages of life. For young parents, for example, their job search could be largely motivated by the need to find a job that favours a work–life balance. For people approaching retirement age, a job search may be more closely related to a need for financial security or personal fulfillment.

Many job changes occur without any unemployment spells between the two periods of employment. This type of transition represents the majority of the job changes recorded over the course of a year and is the main source of gains in employment earnings during ones’ career. In many cases, the job search begins weeks or months before the job change occurs, giving job seekers an opportunity to acquire valuable information about labour market conditions. Workers looking for a new job are thus in a better position to take advantage of opportunities than those who did not look for work while employed, and post a larger gain in earnings after changing jobs. However, the gain in earnings varies depending on the reasons for the job change.

In comparison with unemployed people who have similar skill levels and who are looking for a job with the same level of intensity, workers looking for a job are more likely to be contacted by an employer and receive a higher number of job offers. They also may be more successful in securing job offers with better working conditions (wages, hours, benefits) than unemployed people with similar characteristics and skills.

This article provides information on the number of workers looking for work in Canada and examines the reasons why these workers want to leave their job. It also explores the different links that exist between looking for a job while employed, the characteristics of job seekers and their level of job satisfaction. More particularly, the study answers the following questions:

  • How many workers are looking for a new job? How do they differ from other workers and the unemployed?
  • What are the reasons given by workers for looking for a new job, and at what wage level would they agree to change jobs?
  • What are the factors associated with job search among employed people, including the degree of satisfaction with the current job?
  • This study uses data from the Longitudinal and International Study of Adults (LISA) to answer these questions. Currently, LISA is the only source of data that includes information on job search activities and the reservation wage for both the unemployed and those looking for a new job.

Main findings

  • In 2014, 12% of paid workers reported that they had looked for a new job in the four weeks preceding the survey. This proportion has been on the rise since the mid-1990s, when it was around 5%.
  • Workers looking for a new job are younger and more educated, and have higher literacy and numeracy scores than workers who are not looking for a new job. In addition, almost one-third of them had a different job two years earlier, compared with 18% of other workers.
  • Workers who looked for another job estimated the probability of losing their current job in the next year at about 1 in 5 (19%), compared with 10% for other workers. In contrast, they were more optimistic than the rest of workers about their chances of finding a job that was at least as good as their current job.
  • On average, the desired wage among workers who are looking for a new job was 23% higher than the wage earned in their current job.
  • Among workers dissatisfied with their current job, the probability of looking for a new job was more than 40% for both men and women, even after taking other factors associated with the job search into account. The same probability was 6% among those who were satisfied or very satisfied with their job.


Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Workers looking for a new job


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