Jobs market strengthens, but who's losing? Your kids

May 14, 2012

Canada's jobs market has created 213,800 positions over the past year, with virtually all of the growth in full-time positions and none in part-time work.

The aggregate numbers mask deep splits in the labour market, though, on where we're finding work, who's getting it and what sectors are seeing all the growth.

The variations have myriad consequences for Canadian society. Regional divisions eventually will spark greater labour mobility. Still-high youth unemployment has a scarring effect that will last for years. And the natural resources boom may lead some people to consider a career change.

Here's a better breakdown of what's happened in the work force over the past year (based on Statistics Canada's labour force survey, comparing April of this year with April, 2011):

By age:

Youth are the only demographic group that has not benefited from the past year's increases in employment. In fact, there were 17,200 fewer youth employed in Canada last month than a year ago. As the student job season gets under way, the jobless rate for young people between 15 and 24 years old remains at 13.9 per cent.

The broader youth unemployment rate, which includes discouraged workers and those waiting for a job to start, is even higher at 20.4 per cent, according to the Canadian Labour Congress.

The trend looks a little different in Quebec though, where the participation rate among young people has climbed in the past three months. Much of the country's job gains last month were in Quebec, and the Bank of Montreal theorizes that "perhaps the student unrest has prompted some to leave school and go back into the labour force."

The picture is completely different among older workers. No group has seen employment gains as much as the 55-plus crowd. Job levels among both men and women over 55 have surged 5.5 per cent in the past year as some delay retirement and others go back to work.

By sector:

One industry jumps out: natural resources. Employment in the mining and energy industries has surged 12.5 per cent in the past year, by far the biggest increase in Canada (note, this category also includes forestry and fishing). The construction along with information and culture sectors have also grown.

The country's biggest employer is trade (which includes retail sector), with more than 2.6 million workers.

Not every industry is growing. Public administration trimmed payrolls last month, and is down from year-ago levels, reflecting government austerity. The finance, trade and utilities sectors are also lower than last year.

By region:

Alberta leads the way. Employment in Alberta has grown at more than three times the national pace over the past year, and the jobless rate, at 4.9 per cent, ties with Saskatchewan for the lowest in the country.

New Brunswick is the only province with lower employment levels now than a year ago. And the two provinces with the country's highest jobless rates are Newfoundland (at 12.3 per cent) and Prince Edward Island (at 11 per cent).

British Columbia's unemployment rate tumbled to 6.2 per cent last month from 7 per cent -- the biggest monthly decrease in almost a decade, according to Toronto-Dominion Bank economists, and fuelled by growth in manufacturing and trade.

Windsor, Ont., has the country's highest jobless rate by city, at 10.1 per cent, followed by Peterborough, Ont., at 9.6 per cent. Regina still has the lowest, at 3.8 per cent.

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