Monday, 3 March 2014

Labour Force Trends: Young Professionals Still Hurting for Employment

According to the February 2014 Labour Market Bulletin generated by the Government of Ontario,

Ontario started off 2014 on a positive note after suffering significant employment losses at the end of last year. The province added 6,000 jobs in January, partially recovering some of the jobs shed in December 2013.

Although this seems to boast that Ontario’s labour market is in recovery, it is not a recovery for all; recent graduates and young professionals continue to take a hit because the “employment gains were entirely realized in the full-time sector while part-time work fell for the second consecutive month” (Labour Market Bulletin). January came with an increase in full-time employment of +23,100, but it also saw a loss in part-time employment of -17,000. Though this may sound like a bigger gain than a loss, since the majority of employment opportunities available to young professionals and recent grads are internships and part-time positions, the loss of jobs in this sector is just more evidence of the crushing weight that the current job market is placing on its youth. The unemployment rate for youth aged 15-24 is currently sitting at 16.5% (above the national average of 13.9%). Perhaps our national unemployment rate seems improved, sitting at 7.0%, but of all of the 53,800 positions that were created in Ontario over the past year, not one of them was in the part-time sector.  

Indeed, Canada may have “created more than 1 million jobs since the recession” as Prime Minister Harper has been fond of pointing out, but, as Jason Kirby notes in his MacLean’s post Canada’s Job Market is Leaving Younger Workers Behind, “Canada’s working population grows in excess of 350,000 each year […] [s]imply put, there are a lot more potential workers now than there was during the recession” (Kirby, Fri Jan 3, 2014). The recession hit all age demographics hard, there's no denying that, but specifically for the age 25 and under demographic, it hasn't gotten any better: 195,400 jobs were lost between 2009 and 2010, and only 19,300 were created in 2011(Daniel Tencer, Huffington Post, May 9, 2012). 

The above graph is sourced from Statistics Canada and displays the worsening prospects of workers age 25 and younger. As Kirby notes, "while the job market for those in the 25-64 age group (accounting for 66 per cent of workers) is close to finally returning to its pre-recession level, the bookend generations have been flying off in opposite directions" (Tencer).

Why is this the case you ask? Well, for starters, the recession impacted the ability for many to retire, so older workers are staying in the workforce longer:

The number of people aged 60 and over in the workforce has hit a record high, with 23 per cent of those aged 65 to 69 still working, while six per cent of those aged 70 and over are still in the workforce.  (Tencer, Huffington Post)

Because of this, younger professionals are being pushed out of their career job markets and are being forced to accept work in other sectors like customer service/retail. The shift in this demographic then also takes jobs away from the marginally younger group that would ordinarily be occupying these service roles. Although they are technically not unemployed, this displaced demographic has been “pushed into low wage work during what has been a fairly lackluster economic recovery” (Avery Shenfeld, CIBC Economic Insight, Sept 5, 2013).

Why is this a big concern? Other than it being a personal concern, because I fall within this struggling age demographic, it should be a general concern because the truth of the matter is that even if the unemployment rate is technically going down, it is in a market that still isn’t strong enough to “generate higher quality employment” (Shenfeld). This trickle-down effect needs to be considered, not just the unemployment rate, when discussing the current Canadian economy, because even though the unemployment rate may technically be improving, for the majority of young professionals – those who are in fact the future of the job market – this improvement feels like a bold faced lie. What is more, this specific age demographic (20-24), or those just coming out of college and university and trying to enter the workforce, accounts for 1 in 10 people in the workforce. This is a huge demographic, one whose employment rate was around 72% in 2007 and is currently hovering around 68% (Kirby). The worst part of the equation is that this demographic isn’t just starting off with nothing; they are starting off with less than nothing because they have no job prospects as well as thousands of dollars of student loan debt that they can’t even pay back.

However economist may want to portray it, the current economic climate is not getting better for all; for the younger professional Canadian population, it is still a very painful recession...and we have miles to go before we sleep. 

Amanda Labelle

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