Hiring 'Moribund' at Canadian Banks

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Hiring isn't a top priority for Canadian banks as they face a worsening economy.

While they've managed to avoid Wall Street-size layoffs so far, they've notably slowed hiring. Says Michel Verdoold, president of recruiter Brunel Multec in Toronto: "The orders that we had we were able to fill, but we were not given any new assignments."

Verdoold's comments were echoed by Michael Gooley of Robert Half International in Toronto. He's finding companies are more "conservative" in their hiring practices now.

The unease of the banks is understandable. The government may borrow up to C$100 billion this year to pay for spending to bolster the economy. Canada's jobless rate rose to 6.6 percent in December, up from 5.8 percent earlier in the year.

However, hiring for financial professionals is continuing, albeit slowly. According to Statistics Canada, 1.08 million people were employed in the finance, insurance, real estate and leasing sectors. That's up 1.8 percent from a year earlier.

Canada's job market continues to appeal to some candidates. For instance, Elias Nohra recently joined the Raymond James office in Toronto from Dubai, where he'd worked for Al Mal Capital. He's an associate in the investment banking department, according to the blog of Toronto-based recruiter Bill Vlaad.

Stories Beyond the Numbers

Recruiters already have seen some small scale layoffs at banks. Insurance companies such as Sun Life Financial Inc. are also trimming staff. Overall, Verdoold describes the market as moribund. "The people who are currently employed are not active in the market," he says.

"It continues to be a challenging market," adds Gooley. He notes a recent survey of U.S. CFOs by Robert Half found more than 80 percent had no plans to add staff this year. He believes the results are likely applicable to Canada as well.

Still, there are a few bright spots. Gooley sees strong demand for credit analysts, hedge fund analysts, and workers in compliance and regulatory reporting. He adds that accountants continue to be in demand.

Verdoold, however, cautions job seekers to keep their expectations modest. "It's not looking good right now, so don't hold your breath," he says.

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