Top Cities With the Highest Employment Rates in Canada

Aerial photo of Kelowna, British Columbia

According to a 2018 survey from Study International, over sixty percent of international students wish to become permanent residents in Canada after graduation. One of the main reasons for this is employment, as graduates want to explore Canada’s job opportunities. However, it can be difficult for international students to join the Canadian job market. The good news is that there are many immigration programs and scholarships in place to assist students in finding post-graduation employment.

Another strategy graduates can take is looking for work in Canadian cities with low unemployment. While the outlook is always changing, the Bank of Montreal’s quarterly labour market report card provides a snapshot of what the job market was like at the end of 2018. The biggest surprise from the report is that none of Canada’s largest cities like Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal, ranked in the top 10. Although these cities are still great places to find work, Canada’s smaller cities are increasingly the most reliable sources of employment. Below, we’ve listed cities with the highest employment rates in Canada. The top city may surprise you!

Whether you’re applying to college or a part-time job while studying, use these strategies to boost your resume to the top of the pile.

A view of Peterborough, Ontario at sunset (midsize city with trees and towers); the sky at sunset is mirrored in the Otonabee River.

Image Credit: Jkentrandall, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Peterborough, Ontario

Unemployment Rate: 5.2%
Ranking in 2017: 20 (+13)

Like many midsize Ontario cities, Peterborough once had a thriving manufacturing base. Once nicknamed “The Electric City” (Peterborough was the first Ontario city to have electric streetlights), Peterborough attracted major companies like General Electric and Quaker Oats to set up plants in the early 1900s. Sadly, the city’s manufacturing sector took a major hit in 2018 when GE closed its doors, though Quaker still employs around 700 employees.

In recent years, Peterborough has had success moving away from manufacturing, with health care, education, and service industries now driving the city’s economy. It’s still too early to tell if Peterborough will sustain its positive job growth. However, it’s exciting to see the city move in a positive direction.

Learn more about Peterborough schools here.

A view of Abbotsford, BC: cloudy skies, coastal mountains, green valley, somewhat-sprawling city.

Image Credit: Dllu, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Abbotsford, British Columbia

Unemployment Rate: 4.5%
Ranking in 2017: 17th (+11)

With the third highest proportion of visible minorities among Canadian metropolitan areas, Abbotsford is very welcoming to international graduates. This diversity extends to the city’s employment opportunities, too. Abbotsford’s main industries include agriculture, transportation, manufacturing, film and TV. It also has a growing aerospace industry thanks to Cascade Aerospace and Conair Group Inc. Located near the Canadian-American border and the Greater Vancouver Area, it’s easy to see why Abbotsford has one of the highest employment rates in Canada.

Learn more about Abbotsford schools here.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Image Source: Adobe Stock

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Unemployment Rate: 5.7%
Ranking in 2017: 26th (+21)

The largest city to make BMO’s top 10 list, Halifax has maintained a strong economy compared with other Eastern Canada cities in recent years. Shipbuilding contracts from the Canadian Navy have helped drive this prosperity, but Halifax has a lot more going on. As a port city, Halifax is a major east coast trading area, with over 36,000 jobs in this sector alone. Halifax has also emerged as an exciting tech and startup hub. Combined with its affordable cost of living, it’s no surprise that Halifax has been very successful in recruiting international graduates.

Learn more about Halifax schools here!

A landscape view of modern university buildings at the University of Waterloo (lots of steel and glass)

Image Credit: Victor Vucicevich, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, Ontario

Jobless Rate: 5.1%
Ranking in 2017: 16th (+12)

The tri-cities of Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge (Waterloo Region) have been important drivers of Canada’s “Silicon Valley” for many years. Although the region was impacted when BlackBerry, a major employer, downsized in the early 2010s, a large number of tech companies have since emerged (we did! Also, we’re in good company: OpenText, eSentire, Vidyard, and Arctic Wolf all started here), or moved to the region (think Google, Oracle, SAP, and Square). Many of the newer companies are led or staffed by past BlackBerry employees who wanted to stay local and build something new.

In many ways, Waterloo Region is a model for cities moving away from the manufacturing sector. While the area also weathered many plant and factory closures over the last 20 years, it has successfully pivoted into a well-respected innovation hub. Waterloo Region is also home to many Canadian financial and insurance offices; these, in addition to three world-class academic institutions (the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, and Conestoga College) have also built up the local job sector and attracted top talent at the student and professional levels. All of these factors have helped ensure Waterloo Region has one of the best employment rates in Canada.

Learn more about Waterloo Region colleges and universities here.

Aerial photo of Kelowna, British Columbia

Image Source: Adobe Stock

Kelowna, British Columbia

Unemployment Rate: 3.3%
Ranking in 2017: 2nd (-1)

Although it fell one spot in the overall Canadian rankings, Kelowna is still one of the best places to find work in Canada. Located in the BC interior, Kelowna has benefited economically from its natural surroundings. With plenty of activities in the summer and winter months, Kelowna is a major tourist destination and has also made a name for itself as a booming tech hub.

Film school graduates will also be pleased to know that Eagle Creek opened a new film studio in the city in 2017. Like many British Columbia cities, life in Kelowna can be expensive. However, the city’s low unemployment rate make it an attractive place for new graduates to look for job opportunities.

Learn more about Kelowna schools here.

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Image Credit: Adobe Stock

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Unemployment Rate: 5.6%
Ranking in 2017: 22nd (+20)

International students seeking a post-grad job may want to look at Saskatoon. The city’s economy has long been driven by agriculture and mining industrie, and has recently expanded into many different employment fields.

Thanks to its central location, the city is a Canadian hub for distribution and logistics. Saskatoon also has a growing digital media scene, and a number of successful startups calling the city home. So, by combining future career variety with a lower cost of living and the ability to access provincial health care benefits as an international student, and Saskatoon is worth considering when you’re deciding where to study.

Learn more about studying abroad in Saskatchewan!

Guelph, Ontario

Unemployment Rate: 2.3%
Ranking in 2017: 21st (+20)

According to BMO’s data, Guelph’s unemployment rate was just 2.3%–well under the national average of 5.6%.

So why is Guelph, a city of approximately 132,000, located southwest of Toronto, one of Canada’s best places to find work? The most obvious explanation is the city’s booming manufacturing sector. Companies like Linamar and Skyjack employ thousands of people and are vital to the city’s economy. However, while manufacturing has been important, it’s Guelph’s diversified economy that has helped lead it to the top.

The city is home to many different industries and also attracts talent through the University of Guelph. Being close to Toronto has also helped Guelph real estate, with many commuters opting for the city’s more affordable housing. Unfortunately, these factors have driven up Guelph’s cost of living, but it remains a top place to live and work.

Learn more about Guelph schools here.

Interested in learning about the best study abroad opportunities in five top study destinations?

Start a free account today and let ApplyBoard help.


The most important stories in international education, backed by data