This summer hasn't been good for youth employment. A lot of youth are simply dropping out of participating and the overall number employed is down from the summer of 2011. Take a look at the most recent Labour Market Survey and the one from July. What we're seeing is a prolonged slack labour market in the wake of the recession that's have a terrible impact on young Canadian worker. Below is an interview that I recently did with Angella MacEwen, an economist with the Canadian Labour Congress, that gives us a snapshot of where young unemployment stands in Canada and where we might be going.
Q: Can you give us a snapshot of the current situation regarding youth unemployment in Canada?
A: The labour force participation rate dropped off markedly for youth age 20-24 during the recession in the early 1990's (from 82% in 1989 to 76% in 1998). There was some recovery during the 2000's, but with the last recession we are back to the historic lows of the late 1990's (77% in 2011). The unemployment rate for 20-24 year olds is actually lower now than after the past two recessions, but so is the overall unemployment rate. In June 2012, there were 195,000 20-24 year olds looking for work. This doesn't count the number of discouraged workers, or underemployed workers. Statistics Canada produces an unemployment rate that includes discouraged workers and involuntary part-time work. From 2009 to June 2012, the 'real' unemployment rate for youth has been around 20%. The main story for youth employment is the growth in part-time work, and the fall in full-time work. At the end of the 1980 recession 10% of youth were employed part-time, in the '90's it was 18%, and in 2011 it was nearly 23%. In 1980 nearly 65% of youth age 20-24 were employed full-time, in 2011 that number was only 46%. It's also important to note that EI reforms and the growth in youth part-time employment seriously impact the probability that youth will be able to qualify for EI.
Q. There doesn't seem to be much of a recovery in the job prospects of young workers. Why does this segment of the labour force continue to lag behind?
A: Youth tend to suffer more during a recession, and take longer to recover from its effects. They often lack the experience and / or connections that older workers have cultivated. As Canadians are living longer and working longer, there are fewer openings for youth. And in uncertain times, businesses are leery of hiring an unproven entity.
Q. In your opinion, are senior governments in Canada (provincial and federal) doing enough to address youth unemployment? If not, what more could be done?
A: Absolutely not. We should identify jobs that are (or will be) in demand, and ensure there is enough funding to those apprenticeship, college and university programs. The federal Youth Employment Strategy, which helps young people gain invaluable work experience, only reaches 1.5% of 15-24 year old Canadians.
Q: Are we going to see a rise in the youth unemployment rate in the second half of 2012?
A: I expect that the youth unemployment rate will continue to improve slowly or stay where it's at in the second half of 2012.
Q: Are there any regional disparities in the youth labour market within Canada? If so, what sort of trends are we seeing?
A: As you might expect, youth unemployment is lowest in the Prairies, and highest in Newfoundland & Labrador. The real (R8) youth unemployment rate for Alberta and SK is still high, at around 12%. And although Newfoundland & Labrador has the highest unemployment rate for youth, it has been improving at a faster rate than other provinces since the end of the recession in 2009.