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Post-recession job market changing, Statscan says

Job fair

matthew sherwood The Globe and Mail

The number of Canadian jobs lost in the recession has returned and then some, but they've not come back in the same way, or in the same sectors.

The share of people working in health care along with professional and technical services has swelled, while the portion of workers in factories has dwindled, a new study by Statistics Canada said Thursday.

Canadian employment levels tumbled by 431,000 in nine months of the recession and then took 18 months to recover. That's a speedier recovery than in previous decades - recouping lost jobs took 25 months in the 1990s downturn and 23 months in the 1980s recession.

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But the aggregate numbers mask considerable change in the composition of the jobs market.

"Not all industries followed a similar path of decline and recovery," notes authors Sharanjit Uppal and Sébastien LaRochelle-Côté.

The strongest industry - through the downturn and recovery - has been health care and social assistance. In particular, health occupations, which fell by less than 1 per cent in the recession, surged 9 per cent in the recovery. Conversely, both the manufacturing and natural resources sectors have not recovered from their losses.

All told, more than two-thirds of workers were working in industries (at the start of the recession) that have either recovered their losses or expanded through the recovery of recent years. By contrast, the prior two downturns had more workers in industries that did not recover.

Health care and social assistance, together, actually expanded in the recession and continued growing in the recovery, climbing by more than 150,000 between October, 2008, and January, 2011. Job levels in professional, scientific and technical services have more than recouped their downturn losses. Agriculture, however, has constantly declined in the period.

More recent data show that between the start of 2011 and February of this year, employment has grown by nearly half a million, with almost three-quarters of those gains in accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance, education and construction. Job levels have fallen in factories and utilities.

Consequently, the share of the work force employed in manufacturing ebbed to 9.8 per cent as of February from 11.4 per cent in October, 2008. The share in health care rose to 12.2 per cent from 11.2 per cent in the same period, while the portion in professional, scientific and technical services grew to 7.5 per cent from 6.9 per cent.

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Echoing a typical pattern, more people turned to self-employment in the recession. Their ranks swelled by 67,000 in the downturn, and then declined by 56,000 in the recovery.

Demand for educated workers has also grown.

Occupations requiring a university education grew 4 per cent in the past two years, while jobs needing a college education or apprenticeship training rose 5 per cent.

But growth "was more mitigated" among occupations requiring a high school diploma, which have risen just 1 per cent. (Manager jobs are somewhat of an anomaly - the number of management-related occupations has fallen 1 per cent in this time).

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About the Author

Tavia Grant has worked at The Globe and Mail since early 2005, covering topics from employment and currency markets to trade, microfinance and Latin American economies. She previously worked for Bloomberg News in Toronto and Zurich, writing on mining, stocks, currencies and secret Swiss bank accounts. More


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