Young Canadians have little to cheer about in the latest jobs report, which showed youth unemployment rising to its highest level in six months even as the overall labour market bounced back slightly from the previous month's slide.
Statistics Canada’s April Labour Force Survey revealed employment among youth — those aged 15-24 — fell by 19,000 jobs in April, while the unemployment rate in the age group rose three-tenths of a point to 14.5 per cent.
Overall, Canada’s labour market bounced back from a four-year low in March, churning out 12,500 net new jobs — all full-time. That helped take some of the sting out of March’s massive 54,500-job contraction, though the unemployment rate stayed at 7.2 per cent.
Economists noted that young workers were the only demographic counted by Statistics Canada that has not recovered the jobs lost during the recession.
April was the third consecutive month in which there was a decline in jobs for youth and the unemployment rate in that demographic edged up to the October 2012 level, the Conference Board of Canada pointed out.
High youth unemployment has been a problem since the recession, when about 200,000 jobs for youth disappeared, with few of them coming back, said Pedro Antunes, the board’s director of national and provincial forecasting.
“So these latest monthly numbers are just more bad news. We just haven’t seen this segment of the labour market recover at all,” he said.
Antunes said he believes the labour market is fairly tight overall, and he has been starting to hear some organizations complain they are having trouble finding employees in some parts of the country. The problem appears to be that the jobs they are calling for do not align with what young people have been trained for, he said.
“We do suspect that what employers are looking for is not necessarily the skill set that youth have and that’s been the ongoing problem in general since the recession.”
There appears to be a correlation between lost part-time jobs and rising youth unemployment as, increasingly, the types of jobs open to young people trend toward temporary, part-time and contract work.
“Most of them are employed part-time or not fully employed, certainly,” Antunes said.
Youth tend to feel the brunt of a slow economy, Antunes said, because they "are the least experienced, they have the least tenure and they’re the first to go when there is a cycle, that’s nothing new. We saw that in 2008-2009 just like we had seen in many previous recessions or slowdowns.
"What’s really surprising about this recession is that it’s been so long-lived for youth. ... We haven’t seen any recovery in terms of employment for that cohort since the recession and we’re now running four or five years since then,” he said.
Erin Weir, an economist at the United Steelworkers union, noted that although unemployment numbers remain stable, the lower number of Canadians counted as being in the work force suggests there are more jobless than the official count.
"One would expect the participation rate to decline over time as more Canadians retire," he said.
"However, April’s figures reflect a drop in labour-force participation among those below the age of 25 rather than long-term population aging."
Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers’ union, said he is concerned that the new jobs created have no impact on tamping down “chronically high” youth unemployment.
“Government should not allow the economy to limp along at this pace indefinitely — it is a terrible growth and jobs strategy. Persistently high unemployment in many parts of the country, particularly among young people, requires action on the part of government and industry,” he said in a statement.
“In failing to address the problem of high youth unemployment, we’re turning our back on young people struggling to find jobs, pay forever-escalating tuition costs and just get by.”
Despite an overall rebound in Canada’s labour market, April's gain wasn’t sufficient to offset the losses of the first three months of the year, leaving Canada about 13,000 jobs short of where employment stood on Jan. 1.
Among the positive signs in the report: Some 36,000 full-time jobs were added in the month, mitigated by a 23,600 drop in part-time work. As well, all the net new jobs were employees, rather than in the self-employed category. And the battered manufacturing sector added 20,600 workers, the best month in almost a year.
On the negative side, all the gains came in the public sector, with private-sector employers actually shedding 20,000 jobs. That fact surprised some economists, as Canada's governments are supposed to be in belt-tightening mode and have called on the private sector to stop sitting on cash and start spending to stimulate the economy.
—With files from The Canadian Press