Young woman serving at a high end coffee bar

Canadian youth employment at three-year high in June

By Morgan Sharp, National Observer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Summer employment for Canadian students stayed above pre-pandemic levels in June and employment for all youth was near a three-year high as employers struggled to find workers and wages surged higher.

Overall, the job market shed 43,000 positions, Statistics Canada said Friday, the first drop not related to COVID-19 public health restrictions since late 2019.

Those restrictions, which came in waves over the last two years, have had a disproportionate impact on younger workers, who make up a larger portion of the workforce in retail, hospitality and other public-facing jobs as businesses were shuttered or on restricted operations for months at a time earlier in the pandemic.

The dip was likely due to employers being unable to find workers to hire rather than intentionally slowing their hiring, RBC’s assistant chief economist said, noting job openings are running at almost 70 per cent above pre-COVID levels and the average number of hours worked rose in June.

“Virtually all industries are struggling with labour shortages,” Nathan Janzen wrote in a note, with demand for travel and hospitality returning “as the economic impact of the pandemic eases but where staffing levels are still far short of pre-pandemic levels.”

The central bank could hike interest rates sharply next week in its ongoing effort to cool inflation, Janzen said, which would also likely put a drag on economic growth and soften the job market through the rest of the year.

Akosua Alagaratnam, the executive director of youth employment network First Work, said the job market currently provides an opportunity to help “those folks who may need a bit of support to get them to the right job, with the right employer” and that an impending recession should not leave the currently unemployed “further behind in labour market uncertainty.”

Wages were up, on average, more than $1.50 an hour at $31.24, a 5.2 per cent increase from a year earlier, the federal statistics agency said. They gained 3.9 per cent in May, while inflation that month was running at 7.7 per cent.

More than three-quarters of female students aged 20 to 24 were employed last month, the highest rate recorded for this group since comparable records were first kept in 1977. Their numbers in the workforce helped keep the overall employment rate among returning students aged 15 to 24 higher than three years prior, in line with the boost first recorded in May.

In the three years since June 2019, an extra 14,000 female students aged 20 to 24 became education workers (an increase of more than 70 per cent), and a similar number (but only a 33 per cent rise) became health-care and social assistance workers, StatCan said.

The overall unemployment rate for all youth aged 15 to 24 fell 0.6 percentage points to 9.2 per cent. It was down a full percentage point for female youth at 7.1 per cent and little changed for their male counterparts at 11.1 per cent.

Top image credit: Young workers are in demand as retail and hospitality businesses seek to take advantage of the easing of COVID-19 public health restrictions. – Photo by Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels

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