The Canadian labour market: better than most, better than it has been, but not better than it could be

The labour market has fared better in Canada than in many other rich countries, it has fared better than it has in past recessions, but it has not fared as well as it could.

This is the major message from a recently released report by the Parliamentary Budget Office, which offers a valuable description of the Canadian jobs market because it puts developments in context: comparing them to underlying trends, comparing them to previous recessions, and comparing them to developments in other countries.

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No job growth for Canada’s youth

There has been virtually no growth in employment among young Canadians over the course of the last three years. Employment plummeted in late 2008 for those younger than 25, and has gone nowhere but sideways since . This is in sharp contrast for older groups: their employment levels recapturing all the recessionary losses by 2010.

Tavia Grant, a reporter with the Globe and Mail, offers a nice summary of a Statistics Canada report that describes recent economic developments in an article called “Older workers have the edge in the current recovery.” But a picture from the study by Cyndi Bloskie and Guy Gellaty tells this story most clearly.

Source: Bloskie and Gellaty (2012), Chart 2.

Read the employment levels for 15 to 24 year olds in thousands off of the left scale, and that for those 25 and older off of the right scale. Between September 2008 and August 2009 employment among the young fell by a quarter of a million, and has been virtually stagnant since.

These patterns have been clear for some time, and in fact might be worse than the picture suggests because they do not even correct for the growth in the underlying population.

Statistics Canada cuts long data short: another longitudinal survey is cancelled

The Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics died this morning.

The notice was given quietly by Statistics Canada: “This is the last release of longitudinal data from the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics. Effective with next year’s release of 2011 data, only cross-sectional estimates will be available.”

A short, simple, and slightly obtuse, statement of a profound change for the user community and Canadians in general.

When I recently described the loss of a similar survey to a co-author over the telephone, she paused and said with sadness, “Ahhh…,” as if a friend had died.

There is no doubt that Statistics Canada also recognizes the value of this survey, and others like it. But there are important challenges in managing the information derived from so-called “longitudinal surveys”, and Canadians might be wondering whether or not they are being sold short.

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A youth employment strategy would look like this

Canada’s youth are still waiting.

The 2012 federal budget not only missed the opportunity to create a youth employment strategy, it actually eliminated Katimavik, a program that could have been reoriented, redefined and expanded to meet our labour market needs.

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Immigrants face challenges in finding jobs that are not of their own making

The challenges immigrants face in finding jobs have to do with not just the characteristics and skills they bring to the labour market, but also the state of our economy and the barriers put in their way. More and more tinkering with the selection rules used to admit immigrants will not on its own address these challenges.

In a post on my blog I called for lower rates of immigration during business cycle downturns, and a reader commented by saying:

I arrived in Canada in July 2011 with my family and was called for exactly one job interview a couple of weeks ago. To say I am scarred is putting it mildly. I left a very successful career with the knowledge that it will be difficult to get a similar position but I never anticipated that I would end up feeling invisible and a non-entity with absolutely nothing to offer. Since coming here I have been shelling out money for everything, university fees for my kids and so on. Other than contributing to the Canadian economy through our expenses, I feel immigrants are not considered to be of any particular value.

It struck me how odd and incomplete the public policy response by Canadian opinion makers and governments is to this kind of concern.

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Facts about the labour market, the hidden and the missing

This morning Statistics Canada released–as it does on the first Friday of every month–estimates of employment and unemployment for the previous month.

As usual the headline number is the change in the number of employed, and the Agency’s press release announces that “Following two months of declines, employment rose slightly in December, up 18,000.

But this masks as much as it reveals.

Continue reading “Facts about the labour market, the hidden and the missing”