Ontario jobs see slow increase
Figures reported by the Ontario government are showing an increase of 6,000 net jobs in the province for the first month of 2014.
Drawing on data from Statistics Canada, the ministry of economic development, trade and employment released that employment in Ontario is 2.6 per cent higher than the pre-recession peak, which saw a labour force of 6,708,600 people in September 2008.
But according to an Ontario Federation of Labour representative, employment growth does not necessarily lead to meaningful employment.
“It doesn’t mean that everyone has a good, paying full-time job,” said Brynne Sinclair-Waters, a researcher for the OFL, on what the employment statistics indicate. “It just means they’re working. They may not have the hours they want , for example, or they may not be putting the skills they have to use.”
Underemployment—in terms of hours and skill alignment—has been a notable problem for Ontario’s post-secondary graduates.
The youth unemployment rate continues to be much higher than before the recession, sitting currently at 16.5 per cent—a drop of 0.2 per cent from the previous month. This compares to a 2008 unemployment rate of 13.7 per cent and a current national average of 13.9.
According to Sinclair-Waters, this means that 92,000 additional jobs have to be created in order to return to the pre-recession youth employment levels.
“There really is a structural gap that has been established in the Ontario economy between young people and adults,” she said. “We see a very slow recovery for the population as a whole, but not for young people. Employment rates dropped and they completely stagnated since 2009.”
The ‘youth’ category includes young people ages 15-24, a broad category that encompasses people at a high school and post-secondary level.
This can make it difficult to determine how graduates are faring in the job market.
“15 year-olds in high school are going to be in different employment scenarios than 24-year-olds out of university or college. There’s a whole host of different factors that are going into it, so it’s not very clean to measure,” noted Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance VP: finance Stephen Franchetto.
The Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy is one way in which the government is attempting to tackle unemployment in the province. It involves an investment of $195 million over a two-year period to create jobs and provide incentives to employers.
While Sinclair-Waters believes that the initiative is a positive one, she noted that a move away from austerity measures that negatively impact youth and an expansion of the program to match the scope of the problem are necessary.
“We’re going to need broader action than that to address youth unemployment in Ontario,” she admitted.
Statistics Canada reported that employment gains in 2013 across Canada had the slowest growth rate since 2009.