Though Pressured, Canada's Hiring Outlook Still Strong

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As Wall Street lays off thousands of workers, financial institutions in Canada are hiring. Still, the economy north of the border isn't immune to the sub-prime mortgage crisis pressuring U.S. banks.

Financial professionals have reason to be optimistic about the job market to the north. For one thing, the Canadian dollar continues to perform strongly in world currency markets: In September, it reached its highest valuation versus the U.S. dollar since 1976. Last year, Canada's economy boosted employment by the most since 1999, despite layoffs in the manufacturing sector while the same index fell in the U.S., according to a CIBC survey cited by Reuters.

"There are more jobs out there than strong candidates," says Mark Sharland, managing director of Michael Page in Canada. "The sentiment is still pretty upbeat."

Mark Toren, managing director of Altura Executive Search, also was optimistic about the job market. "There is certainly going to be hiring on the plus side," he believes. "We haven't had a single company call us and say 'we're not hiring anybody.'"

Indeed, job boards and Web sites show openings at major financial institutions, including CIBC, TD Financial Group and BMO Financial Group. Big Wall Street firms are also looking for candidates in Canada, recruiters say.

Busy Cross-Border Traffic

Like their U.S. counterparts, Canadian banks are taking billions in write downs because of bad bets in the real estate market, but their exposure appears not to be as great. This is good news for the increasing numbers of Canadians with experience in the U.S. who are trying to return home because of concern about a downturn in the American economy.

Of course, U.S. citizens who want to work in Toronto need to get the required visas. So far, though, not many appear to have sought out jobs in the financial sector, and they probably would face stiff competition from Canadians.

"The time that people are going to make a move is January, February and March (when bonuses are often paid off)," Toren says. "We are seeing people moving now.... We are uncharacteristically busy for a January."

Compensation for experienced candidates remains competitive. Those who are looking to switch jobs may be able to get salary increases of 10 percent to 15 percent, according to Sharland. "It's still a job hunter's market in the financial services market in Toronto," he observes.

Even so, given the uncertainties of the market, many are reluctant to leave their jobs even for a better paying one. "Candidates are being a bit more demanding and picky and selective," Toren says. "It's very understandable."

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