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Quality of new jobs on the decline, study finds

Immigration hopefuls attend a session on Canada’s francophone communities during the Destination Canada job fair that took place last November in Paris.

Stéphane Le Mentec/Embassy of Canada in France

The vast majority of jobs created last year were part-time positions in what a new report calls a "lacklustre" year for Canada's labour market.

Almost 95 per cent of net new positions were part-time, according to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce's analysis of the 2013 labour market, a year that saw the weakest job growth since 2009.

Employment growth clustered in several areas. Almost 70 per cent of the new jobs happened in a single province, Alberta, while job gains were concentrated among older workers. And the outsized growth of part-time positions is a reversal from 2012, when full-time work led growth.

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"It [2013] was definitely a year of lacklustre growth, but looking beneath the aggregate numbers there were a number of surprises," said Tina Kremmidas, the chamber's chief economist and the report's author. "We're not talking about one labour market. We're talking about multiple and diverse labour markets."

Part-time positions made up nearly one in five of all jobs last year, a tilt that raises "concerns about the quality of jobs being created," she said. Still, it may also reflect that more older workers are rejoining the work force and might prefer part-time hours.

Older women continue to lead job gains. Employment among women aged 55 and older grew by 5.5 per cent in 2013, year over year, "by far" the biggest gain of all age groups. Employment for older men rose too, by 4 per cent. Employment among people in prime working age, between 25 and 54, ebbed while youth saw little improvement.

That divergence is reflected in contrasting jobless rates. Young men aged 15 to 24 had an unemployment rate of 15 per cent in December, while the jobless rate for older women was 5.2 per cent.

Canada's job market, like that in other advanced economies, is shifting to services. All of last year's job growth came on the services side, in areas such as professional services and health care, which now employs 78 per cent of the work force.

A common perception is that factory job losses and service-sector growth have meant fewer higher-paying jobs. But the report notes that several sectors, such as professional services, that have led job growth also pay above-average wages. In the long run, Canada will keep shifting to more knowledge-based jobs, many of which will require specialized skills and higher education.

Immigrants still face elevated jobless rates. Recent immigrants in their prime working age had an unemployment rate more than double that of Canadian-born workers in the same age group, the report noted.

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More than half of recent immigrants have university degrees, compared with one-quarter of the Canadian-born population. Yet despite that, the jobless rate for recent immigrants with a university degree was five times the unemployment rate for university- educated, Canadian-born individuals, the paper said. The gap may stem from language barriers, along with little Canadian work experience and lack of recognition of foreign credentials.

Last year, average job growth slowed to 8,250 a month compared with 25,658 a month in 2012. Ms. Kremmidas expects job gains will average about 15,000 a month this year, whittling away the jobless rate to 6.7 per cent by year's end.

Statistics Canada will release its labour force survey on Friday. Economists are expecting about 17,000 new jobs, though some put the tally at 20,000, with the unemployment rate holding steady at 7 per cent.

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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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