September 6, 2013 1:15 pm
Updated: September 6, 2013 3:14 pm

Chart of the day: Is there a youth jobs crisis in Canada?

Older workers are forming an increasingly large percentage of the part-time workforce in Canada.

Global News

Is there a youth jobs crisis in Canada?

The answer to that depends on who you ask, it seems.

The latest labour market picture released by Statistics Canada on Friday suggests more older workers are taking on the jobs traditionally reserved for younger ones: part-time workers in retail and other service sector jobs.

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Old is encroaching on the young, it appears, and in the process depriving them of valuable work experience critical to easing them into their working lives.

Read more: Sorry kid, older workers need that part-time job more than you

It’s a pattern that’s evolved since the recession, leading some to suggest that members of the youngest cohort in the jobs market are being left behind — and diminishing their prospects in adulthood.

“It is a trend we’re seeing play out in the data,” Sonya Gulati, a senior economist at TD says. “Part of the reason for that is that people in that age category [55 years old and up] are preparing for retirement, and perhaps testing it out.

“So they’re doing part time work and phasing in their retirement gradually. That’s one possible reason,” she said. “Number two, we’ve seen senior debt levels creep up over the last little while and so people might be participating in the labour market to try and get some more money to pay off that debt.”

“One could argue that these older workers are taking the place of younger workers.”

The youngest among young workers are bearing most of the brunt, with unemployment among those age 15-18 sitting at a record high, CIBC said this week. Employment for this group has fallen a “stunning” 22 per cent since 2007.

Overall job numbers for young people have declined too. In August 2008, 89.1 per cent of people aged 15-24 in the labour force were employed. In August 2013, that number had fallen to 85.9 per cent.

Is it a crisis? Data from Statistics Canada compiled by Global News dating back to just before the onset of the recession shows the youngest demographic as a whole isn’t doing as badly, at least on the part-time front.

It shows the number of workers age 15-24 declined by 2.3 percentage points to represent just over a third of the part-time work force. The number of workers 55 and older in that time span – August 2008 to last month — climbed 3.8 percentage points to represent 22.4 per cent of that P/T workforce.

“Some argue there’s a youth [jobs] crisis here in Canada. But when you compare it to past recessions, we don’t think it’s necessarily one,” Gulati said.

“Youth tend to lag the recovery, they’re the most vulnerable to a recession and afterwards they tend to be the last ones to recoup the jobs,” the bank economist said.

“It’s a challenge but it’s certainly not a crisis.”

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