A few days after the release of the latest census data revealed that Canada’s seniors now outnumber its children, new jobs numbers for April reinforce the picture of a greying country. Employment among Canadians aged 55 and older swelled by 24,000 in April, mostly in full-time work. Meanwhile, fewer young people were searching for work at all, Statistics Canada reported.
What the numbers are saying isn’t that scores of older Canadians suddenly got jobs, but that lots of boomers are turning 55, boosting the body count in that age group.
And yet, those data are still the portrait of a thriving boomer population who keeps on working and hanging on to coveted full-time positions.
Contrast that with what’s happening among Canada’s youngest workers, those aged 15 to 24. They were mainly responsible for pushing the unemployment rate from 6.7 per cent down to 6.5 per cent, the lowest level since 2008. But the drop, Statistics Canada said, mostly reflected the fact that fewer youth are looking for a job.
What does this all mean?
Boomers don’t just hold a lot of the full-time jobs, they also enjoy remarkable job stability. Around two-thirds of Canadians in the post-war generation entered their 50s having held down the same job for 12 years or more, according to a 2013 StatsCan study.
“In fact, most had worked for the same firm or organization for far longer—often 20 years or more—and even this is an underestimation since most started their longest job prior to the start of our reference period,” the study reads.
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“The prevalence and duration of long-term jobs among this cohort suggest that the working lives of most baby boomers were quite stable,” the authors continue.
At least half of boomers with long-term jobs didn’t experience a single layoff over a 28-year period. Conversely, workers under 35 experienced the highest degree of job instability, the report found.
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In addition to coping with more precarious employment, Canada’s millennials are also dropping out or staying out of the workforce in greater numbers.
The labour force participation rate among those aged 20 to 24 dropped from 79 per cent in 2004 to 75.5 per cent last month, Douglas Porter, chief economist at BMO Financial Group told Global News.
It’s unclear whether that reflects the fact that more young people are staying in school longer or that many of them have become discouraged after attempting in vain to land employment, Porter noted.
Some economists, however, find the statistic troubling.
Among them is Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz, who recently told Maclean’s magazine that the bank is gunning for higher economic growth in part to help pull more young Canadians back into the workforce.
Around 120,000 people between 15 and 25 have fallen out of the workforce, the governor noted.
Boomers are often blamed for the job struggles of Canadians, but the link between older workers staying put and younger ones not finding jobs is anything but obvious.
Having older workers lingering in the workforce can be frustrating for slightly younger colleagues who might otherwise move up into more senior positions, said Porter.
In general though, the fact that boomer workers keep on chugging along is good for the economy, he added.
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The children of the baby boom account for a considerable chunk of Canada’s overall workers, and economists are fretting about the day when most of them will be retired.
Growth in the labour force accounts for two-thirds of economic growth, David Foot, an economics professor at the University of Toronto and author of a landmark book on the economic impact of the boomer generation, told the Globe and Mail.
Boomers’ retirement, economists fear, will mean slower economic growth for everyone.
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