Youth unemployment on the rise


(Graphic by Kate Turner)
(Graphic by Kate Turner)

One hand holds the degree, the other holds the résumé, and a graduate steps foot into the working world — that is, if they can actually find work.

A new report by Statistics Canada evaluating the comparison of unemployment rates between youths and adults revealed that youth were 2.4 times more likely to experience unemployment than those aged 25-54 years old.

This is the biggest recorded gap since 1977.

“We tried to look at reasons why we would observe such a gap and consistency,” said André Bernard, an economist for Statistics Canada and author of the paper. “We’re looking at the data, we’re looking at the trends.”

His study, published only weeks ago, found patterns which may help explain joblessness in youth. On average, over 28.1 per cent of unemployed youth had never worked in a professional environment before.

However, young people who were unemployed were more likely than adults to find a job quickly. In 2012, 67.6 per cent of those who became unemployed were able to find work in less than three months. This contrasts those in the 25-54 and the 55+ demographic whose percentages were, respectively, 58 per cent and 54.5 per cent.

Additionally, many youths are known to leave the workforce to return to school as full-time students.

This occurrence was far more common amongst youth workers than those aged 25-54.

“We have no evidence finding that younger people are having more difficulty in finding work,” Bernard explained. “It’s just that younger people are more likely to go through spells [of unemployment].”

These “transitions” as Bernard puts it, directly influence the growing gap.

“So, really what explains the unemployment rates is there is a lot of instability and transitions,” Bernard added. “This is in part explained by their lower seniority.”

Others, however, speculate that the job market is becoming increasingly more difficult to break into because recent grads are overqualified for some positions.

Andrew Jackson, a professor of social justice at York University, recently wrote an article in The Globe and Mail explaining a “structural mismatch” between the education of students and their eventual careers.

“I think there’s a lot of reasons to be concerned,” Jackson explained. “The bigger problem really is that there are a lot more graduates than available jobs that require a high level of education skills.”
In that context, Jackson believes that many graduates are not only underemployed, but will probably end up in fields that do not even require post-secondary education.

“Jobs that require high level education aren’t growing as fast as the job market as a whole,” he elaborated.

According to Jackson, part of the reason of why the supply drastically exceeds the demand is likely related to the global market and technological changes that have occurred within the last decade.

He further explained that this has eliminated a lot of “reasonably well paid, middle-class jobs in manufacturing.” However, despite the soft job market, the York University professor does not discourage the pursuit of post-secondary education.

“There’s a lot of reason to go to a university,” he said. “I mean, it certainly puts you a leg up in the job market, but it doesn’t guarantee anything.”

“We should focus on the demand rather than the supply,” he concluded.

As for Bernard, he emphasized that the future does not look entirely bleak.

“The data will be interesting to follow,” he said. “Lots of things can happen.”

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