Despite new jobs and small businesses, unemployment still affects many Canadians

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There are always two sides to every story – three, even, depending on whom you ask – and this is no exception. Although there have been great strides lately in the Canadian job market and new jobs have steadily been added over the last five years, some experts believe that now the job market is a bit too good and workers are not qualified for many of the openings that are available. When compared to the U.S employment rate and jobs lost in our southern neighbor's financial recession in the past four years, the Canadian job market doesn't seem so bad.

In contrast, it seems pretty amazing. However, the unemployment rate remains above 7 percent and is well above the average set before the financial crisis. Continue reading

How to obtain a mortgage when you’re self-employed

Plenty of Canadians aspire to be self-employed, and for many, the possibility seems like just a dream. Other than having the freedom to set your own business rules, policies and net all the truly deserved profit, self-employed people can set their own hours and even work in their pajamas if they want. What really could be better than that?

Recent statistics show that at least 20 percent of all income-earning Canadians are self-employed, but the numbers are growing all the time. When economic strain and corporate pressure frustrate or deter a person from working in a traditional work position, self-employment may be just the ticket in reviving his or her happiness. But what could it do for that person's ability in obtaining a mortgage? After all, don't lenders look at employment history and stability when determining a person's eligibility on a mortgage application?

Of course they do. But a recent article in The Globe and Mail encourages Canadians to not feel frustrated when trying to buy a home or refinance a mortgage. Turns out that taking a few extra steps and getting all those ducks in a row – in the form of proper financial documentation and a down payment, of course – can give banks the proof they need that a person will be able to pay his or her mortgage on time, every time. Continue reading

Is it reasonable to pack everything up and relocate?

At one point or another, most people fantasize about packing their lives up and going somewhere for a new start. Wouldn't it be nice to simply leave all troubles behind and start fresh wherever the road takes you?

Sooner or later, most of us brush this idea off and resume life in precisely the same spot. Others, however, hold tight to the idea and relocate when the first opportunity reveals itself. This is most often easier said than done, especially for homeowners.

Having to sell a house when housing prices are higher than ever is a task in itself and can take time and require real estate fees that could make a person's toes curl. Unfortunately, that isn't the only risk or expense to pack up and relocate.

For starters, the housing issue is a big deal. A really big deal, which may be lessened if a person is moving from a high-cost area to one with a lower cost of living, such as from Calgary to Halifax or Vancouver to Winnipeg, according to Statistics Canada. Average housing ranges from $250,000 in Winnipeg to more than $700,000 in Vancouver – numbers that are nothing to sneeze at. Continue reading

If at first you don’t succeed, follow these tips and reapply for a mortgage

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After making the responsible decision that it's time to buy a place of your own – whether you have an affinity for home improvement or you're tired of spending so much to rent a place that isn't even yours – and taking the mortgage application plunge, a loan denial can feel like a kick in the gut. Ouch.

Before you swear off of ever owning your own home with a renovated kitchen, think long and hard about why you may have been denied. Perhaps a long-ago spending binge left you with more credit card debt than is desirable, or maybe you don't even use a credit card because you're extremely wary of creating personal debt.

To save yourself from endless questions or confusion post-denial, it may be best to consult with a financial professional or mortgage broker and find out exactly why you were denied. Depending on what risks you posed as a potential borrower, there are some tips to follow that may improve your chances in the next application. Continue reading

Are more restrictions the best policy for responsible Canadian borrowers?

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As the debate continues over whether to slow the Canadian housing market, one mortgage consultant argues potential homeowners would be better served by fewer restrictions on lending practices, not more.

In response to the American housing collapse of the last few years, Canadian finance ministers began tightening the rules for mortgage borrowing by increasing minimum down payments from nothing down to 5 percent and gradually shortening amortization periods from 40 years to 30 years. This had the effect of weeding out some would-be homeowners who may not have been entirely ready for the financial responsibilities of a mortgage.

But so long as the Bank of Canada maintains low interest rates, mortgage rates are likely to remain lower than average as well, encouraging borrowers to take out home loans despite the new restrictions. To counter this effect and further reduce the risk that mortgage applicants might later default on their mortgages as many Americans did, a number of financial experts have recommended additional restrictions on mortgage lending, including a 7 percent minimum down payment, 25-year maximum amortization period and means testing for applicants. Continue reading

Canadians say salary, job flexibility more important than strong pension plan

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Unstable global stock markets, a domestic household debt crisis and new pension rules have made saving for retirement a popular financial topic, and one recent study reveals Canadians' views regarding retirement funds are shifting.

According to a BMO Retirement Institute report, Canadians now believe salary and job flexibility are more important than having a strong pension plan, and more than half don't know what an ideal pension plan would look like.

"The employer pension used to be a lot simpler because, in the past, Canadians would generally stay with one employer throughout their working career," said Tina Di Vito, head of BMO Retirement Institute. "Now, because employees switch jobs so often, many have to deal with multiple pension plans during their career." Continue reading

Report: Canadian job market lacks quantity, quality

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The Canadian economy gained jobs in December after two months of reductions, but overall the employment market has faltered during the past 12 months, according to a CIBC World Markets study.

The report said Canada's job market contains less employment opportunities overall and fewer quality positions. While employment expanded by more than 180,000 positions in 2011, the economy actually lost 55,000 jobs during the final quarter.

"The impact of a softening pace of job creation is exacerbated by a worsening level of job quality in the Canadian labour market," Benjamin Tal, CIBC World Markets' deputy chief economist, said in the report. "From a quality perspective, the surge in self-employment reduces the overall quality of employment, largely due to the fact that, on average, a self-employed person earns 10 percent to 15 percent less than a regular employee." Continue reading

Canadians more worried about job security than retirement savings

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The Canadian economy gained 18,000 jobs in December after two months of subtraction, but job security is still the top economic concern among Canadians.

According to a recent Edward Jones survey, Canadians are more worried about employment than healthcare costs, volatile stock markets or saving for retirement. Thirty-one percent of survey respondents cited job security as their top financial concern heading into this year, while 25 percent said healthcare costs, 21 percent said stock market performance and 14 percent said saving for retirement.

However, survey responses were impacted by the age of respondents, as those aged 65 and over said the cost of healthcare is their top concern, while young Canadians are most worried about securing employment. Healthcare and potential health insurance costs are a more significant worry than in 2009, when only 15 percent of residents cited them as their top financial problem in a similar Edward Jones survey. Continue reading

Alberta, Saskatchewan cities to lead Canada in economic growth

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Many economic experts have recently predicted limited growth for the Canadian economy this year, but some major metropolitan regions in Alberta and Saskatchewan are expected to remain robust.

According to the Conference Board of Canada's Metropolitan Outlook-Winter 2012, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton and Regina will experience the most significant economic growth this year.

"In spite of global economic turmoil, high prices for agricultural products, minerals and oil are likely to continue. Canada's prairie cities will reap the benefits of this global demand for commodities," said Mario Lefebvre of the CBoC. "The outlook is not as promising for cities in central and eastern Canada." Continue reading

Many Canadian businesses will add staff in 2012

Several economic experts have predicted the rising unemployment rate will negatively impact the housing market in 2012, but recent research says Canadian companies plan to expand workforces next year.

According to a survey by found that 34 percent of Canadian employers expect to add full-time staff, up from 32 percent 12 months ago and 29 percent the previous year.

"Even as the global economy continues to struggle, Canada is expected to add jobs at a steady pace in 2012," said Brent Rasmussen, president of CareerBuilder North America. Rasmussen added that information technology, engineering and administration professionals will be in high demand, as businesses hire staff expecting to improve efficiency. Continue reading