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For students, it's still a bleak picture for summer jobs

The jobs market may have rebounded from the depths of the recession but trying telling that to Canada's unemployed youth, many of them shut out for yet another year.

Canada's unemployment rate fell unexpectedly to 7.4 per cent in May, and unemployment among summer students eased, but it still sits at 15 per cent.

Yes, it's an improvement from last May when it was 16.5 per cent, when students aged 20 to 24 were especially hard hit. But the fact remains that the unemployment rate for these kids is almost double the national level.

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Indeed, the rate of employment in that age group remains about 8 per cent below pre-recession level, Robert Kavcic, economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns, said today after Statistics Canada released its May data.

"That section of the labour market has been underperforming," he said. "The recovery is progressing a lot more slowly for youth than for the overall labour market and prospects are not as promising."

Globally, youth also face a job squeeze. In Spain, the jobless rate among 16- to 24-year-olds is a staggering 45 per cent, and in the 27 countries of the European Union, the jobless rate for under-25s averaged about 21 per cent.

It's the same gloomy picture that president Nancy Schaefer sees at Youth Employment Services in Toronto.

"Summer is usually a bright spot in youth employment - a boom, really, especially in the hospitality and tourism sectors," she said. "But Toronto is definitely reeling from the fallout of the recession and it's looking sluggish for students seeking jobs."

There's an underlying problem, she said.

"Most graduated students don't want summer or seasonal jobs, but with the job market being what is, they are taking anything they can get," Ms. Schaefer said.

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That means high school students or post-secondary students looking to pay their way through university are being kept out of the market by more qualified graduates, who can also start work before school is out in July.

The Statistics Canada numbers cover students aged 15 to 24 but, the federal agency said, the May numbers largely cover the 20- to 24-year-old group as high school students are still in class.

"If you wait for July to job hunt, you're already too late," she said.

Not that this really helps graduates students, Ms. Schaefer added.

"These seasonal jobs are not really long-term career steps for graduates," she said. "It's one thing if it would advance their career or be a foot in the door, but the jobs are not even usually related to what students have studied."

For Pedro Antunes, director of economic forecasting at the Conference Board of Canada, Friday's numbers drive home the point that students need to invest in their education.

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"Before the recession, a lot of youth were not continuing their studies and getting jobs in manufacturing and construction," he said. "So when the recession hit, they were amongst the first people let go."

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