Almost every day, labour market information makes news headlines— unemployment rises or falls, the economy gets stronger or weaker, businesses come or go. When you’re using labour market information to help you make choices about your career path, this constant flow of information can sometimes seem confusing and overwhelming.
These suggestions will help you make sense of labour market information, determine how it will affect you and use it to your advantage in making career decisions.
When you hear a news item or read an article about labour market trends, consider the following questions:
- How will these trends affect the local economy?
- What opportunities will these trends create?
When journalists or commentators make a prediction about the labour market, ask yourself these questions:
- How believable is the prediction?
- What is their prediction based on? How do they project from the present to the future?
- What information have they overlooked that might change the prediction?
- What is their interest in the prediction? For example, a chief executive officer predicting a great year for a company likely holds stock in that company.
Check the reliability and credibility of sources
It’s a good idea to question the reliability of labour market information. Consider the reasons behind how the information is presented. Organizations, political causes, lobby groups and others may present information in a way that supports their own goals. For example, a predicted rise in demand for tradespeople announced by a trade school could be aimed at selling a training program.
The credibility of the information source is also important. For example, the information you find on this (ALIS) website is highly credible. On the other hand, claims that sound too good to be true usually are. For example, it’s probably wise to question the credibility of an ad describing how you can make a 6-digit salary, with little or no training, from the comfort of your own home.
Check the date
Labour market information changes fast. Get in the habit of checking the date of information you’re using to ensure it’s current. General references to events that may happen in the next few decades or farther into the future probably won’t give you a firm foundation for your career plan.
Consult and compare several information sources
Gathering information from a variety of sources and comparing what you find out will help you identify biases and clarify choices. For example, if you’re considering a specific training program, talk to people working in the field and employers in the industry. Compare what they say with information the post-secondary institution provides.
Check the location
American information may not be relevant to Canada, national information may not be relevant to Alberta and regional information may not be relevant to your area of the province. Look for labour market information that applies to where you’re living now or where you plan to be in the next few years.
Find out where forecasted work opportunities will be located. Some specialized types of work are only available in specific locations, such as large urban centres or remote areas.
Recognize the difference between occupational information and industry information
An occupation involves the specific knowledge and abilities required for a particular type of work; for example, nursing. An industry is a sector of the economy that involves the production of specific services or goods; for example, health care. The same occupation may be found in a number of industries. For example, sales representatives work in health care and many other industries.
Labour market information about an industry may or may not involve specific occupations. For example, an increased demand for labour in the health care sector could mean more jobs for nurses or it could mean more jobs for non-nursing staff.
Understand salary information
A number of factors can have an impact on salary information:
- Location of the work: Making $15 an hour serving fast food may sound like a great wage. But if the job is in a boom town, that wage may not cover the high cost of living there.
- Nature of the work: Seasonal or project-related work may pay very well, but the work is temporary. For example, when the harvest is over or the film shoot is finished, so is the salary.
- Emerging industries: Occupations in emerging industries may offer high salaries initially, while skilled workers are in short supply; for example, in high tech fields. Salaries may level off when more workers become available.
Interpret statistics carefully
Based on the following statistics, which occupation will have more job openings?
- The number of jobs for physiotherapists will increase by 150%.
- The number of jobs for plumbers will increase by 10%.
The answer depends on the number of people working in each occupation in the community. If there are only 30 physiotherapists, an increase of 150% would mean 45 new jobs. If there are 2000 plumbers, a 10% increase would result in 200 additional jobs.
Check how lists are produced
Top 100 lists or lists of industries by size are often based on revenue, rather than numbers of employees. Publicly funded organizations, like government and educational institutions, are considered not-for-profit and would not be included on many top 100 lists, despite the fact that they are major employers in some communities.
If you want to advance in income or position, check out labour market information related to where you want to be in the next few years:
- Learn about typical career paths in your occupation.
- Keep up-to-date with trends that influence your occupation and industry.
- Know who your employer’s competitors are.
Chances are you’ll be basing your future on the labour market information you gather. It’s smart to be selective about the sources and the accuracy of that information. At the same time, try to keep an open mind while you’re doing your research—nuggets of useful labour market information often turn up in unexpected places and can lead you in exciting new directions.