Surprising Workforce Realities in Newfoundland and Labrador: A Recruiters Perspective


“What is the talent market really like in Newfoundland and Labrador?” This is one of the most common questions I’ve been asked over the past 17 years as a recruitment professional. General curiosity is understandable since recruitment activity is often seen as a good economic indicator and those of us in recruitment know firsthand which sectors are growing and hiring and which ones are contracting.  

The interesting thing in our Province is that this question is almost always posed with a veil of skepticism. For many, especially non-residents, Newfoundland and Labrador’s ‘have-not’ status is a brand that is hard to shake and for good reason. The facts are hard to ignore: the provincial unemployment rate consistently ranks among the country’s highest, our economy is heavily dependent on cyclical natural resources, and our population is in decline.  

Yet, my response to this question is consistently the same, a resounding HOT! Across all sectors and levels of positions there is significant demand and a short supply of talent.  

Competition for employees is intense. Yet, while the ‘talent war’ analogy is fitting, many still ask “how can this be in a province like ours?”   

Within the past year alone, the number of vacant jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador increased by 35% year over year. As one of my clients aptly asked, where have all of the candidates gone? Hiring managers have seen a sharp decline in applications to recruitment ads. When a great candidate is identified for a role they are almost always entertaining multiple job offers simultaneously. The truth is that not only is the war for talent real, it's urgent. 


"If you are not treating your future and current employees with the same care you would with your clients and customers you are losing the talent game. Period."

- Natalie Hand, Managing Partner, KBRS and Meridia   

While the concern around the skills gap – the misalignment of the current workforce’s skills and the needs of employers –  predates the pandemic, today’s business leaders are experiencing a fundamentally changed talent market. There is not only an unprecedented demand for talent but a significant gap in supply. Further challenging many employers, today's job seekers have higher expectations than ever before. Attitudes toward work have changed. Flexibility, autonomy, and values alignment are major deciding factors for most candidates. It has become a job seeker’s market putting significant pressure on employers to retain and attract employees, offering greater flexibility and perks just to compete. 

Chances are, if you are a business leader, you have seen this new reality play out directly. Your top performers are being wooed by new roles, your teams are demanding more flexible work arrangements, and your job vacancies are becoming more difficult and time consuming to fill. The shift toward employee-centric strategies to address attraction and retention needs is unlike anything most of us can recall. 

Every day I help business owners navigate these talent puzzles. I do not believe any of this is easy to manage but I do believe where there is challenge there is opportunity. I also believe that Newfoundland and Labrador companies are uniquely positioned to respond and thrive in this market.  

Here’s how:  

Build Brands Where Employees Feel They Belong 

Across industries and geographies, job seekers are now more selective and expect something different from their employers. It is essential for employers to develop a compelling employee value proposition – why should employees want to work with you? Your brand image as an employer needs to go beyond competitive compensation and benefits. Many of the most sought-after employees are concerned with workplace culture, career development opportunities, and community connection.  

Newfoundland and Labrador based companies have the opportunity to lean into our natural sense of community to gain a competitive advantage. Consider, not only how you create a welcoming community within your team but also how your company is showing up as a community partner. Weave this into your employment story. Especially after the isolation and struggles we have experienced through the past two years; community support is not only needed but is also a highly desired organizational value for most job seekers.  

Instill Our Provincial Hospitality into Your Candidate Relationships  

If you are not treating your future and current employees with the same care you would with your clients and customers you are losing the talent game. Period.  

Lengthy recruitment processes, minimal or non-existent communication with job applicants, and lack of follow up after an interview are all too common complaints we hear from job seekers. This lack of care may cost you the best talent. Candidates will simply move on, sourly.  

In Newfoundland and Labrador our talent pool is small. The candidate who was not successful in one competition may be your best choice for another role in future. Ensuring a positive candidate experience for each and every individual who interacts with your organization is essential. It will greatly increase the likelihood of candidates engaging with you again and it also promotes your company as one that values and develops long-term relationships.  

Reconsider Opportunities for Remote and Offshore Workers  

 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are often the first to boast about the high quality of life available here. It’s safe with a unique and vibrant culture and a great place to raise a family or find greater work life balance with negligible commuting time. Despite our often-unpredictable weather, we love it here!   

While our geography has previously proven to be a limiting factor, the growing number of employers who are embracing remote work arrangements is changing how organizations compete for talent. With effective and proven remote and hybrid work models, local companies now have access to talent around the globe. For employers able to offer remote work options this reality opens up a literal world of talent.  

For many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, remote work options also mean having the ability to choose both an attractive career opportunity and the joy of living near family or the lifestyle that the Province offers. Residents can access sought after jobs beyond provincial boarders. For employers, this shift requires reconsidering how you will compete against compelling offers from organizations near and far and going beyond compensation to think about what matters most to the candidates you wish to attract. 

Embrace Diversity 

The benefits of diversity within organizations are well documented. Bringing varying backgrounds and perspectives to the table can help generate new ideas and solutions that drive innovation and even higher revenues. More diverse teams are also proven to be more in tune with the evolving needs of clients and employees. 

Is your team actively considering how to engage underrepresented groups in your recruitment process? Are their barriers or biases that may be getting in the way of attracting and retaining a more diverse team? One of the best options to combat our declining population in Newfoundland and Labrador is immigration. Newcomers to our province offer sought after skills, new perspective and much needed diversity to leadership teams and staff. For example, as hundreds of Ukrainians enter our province thanks to the collective efforts of the provincial government and organizations like the Association of New Canadians and Task Force NL, employers have the unique opportunity to engage candidates with new perspective and sought-after skills while helping individuals fleeing conflict create a new home.  

Being an employer of choice in a competitive talent market isn’t easy. Organizations need to invest time and energy into taking a more holistic approach to their talent attraction strategy. What worked five years ago won’t create the same results today. However, with change comes opportunity and there has never been a better time to make a change.  

Interested in learning more about current candidate expectations and how you can adapt your talent attraction strategy in an employee’s market?  

Connect with Natalie Hand, Managing Partner of KBRS and Meridia,, or Jennie Massey, Partner and NL Executive Search Lead of KBRS,

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