Student job availability drops

Thursday, June 18, 2009

  • According to data released by Statistics Canada, students looking for summer work may face an uphill battle (istock photo)

    According to data released by Statistics Canada, students looking for summer work may face an uphill battle (istock photo)

Written by Greg Beneteau and Jackie Doyle

Unemployment figures in May painted a bleak picture for university students looking for summer jobs.

According to Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey, unemployment among youth aged 20 to 24 years who had attended school full-time in March and who planned to return to school in the fall rose to 18.3 per cent in May, up from 15.4 per cent for the same time in 2008.

The losses all occurred in full-time employment positions, representing an additional 59,000 students without full-time work compared to the previous year.

Diana Petermala, an economist with TD Bank, said students were being hard-hit by a lack of jobs in industries like manufacturing, construction and hospitality, which tend to hire a lot of young people.

“There’s no demand for labour in these areas right now,” Petermala explained. “If you think about the number of students are out of school for the summer, maybe half of them look for employment in summer, which just increases the number of people competing for work.”

High school students who finish school in June will also discover a glutted job market with fewer opportunities to work, Petermala predicted.

Adding to the pain, she said companies have shifted their hiring practices during the economic downturn, bringing on older, experienced workers as consultants in order to avoid the costs of training new recruits.

In May, the unemployment rate for youth workers aged 15 to 24 stood at 14.9 per cent, the highest since 1999, StatsCan reported. Since the peak in employment last October, a total of 134,000 jobs were lost in this age group. Employment among workers in the core 25-to-54 age group has also declined.

Conversely, StatsCan reported that older workers were holding steady or gaining jobs. Employment for women aged 55 and over increased by 16,000 in May, with a net increase of 3.1 per cent employment since last October. Employment among men 55 and older was more or less unchanged.

“[Students] are not necessarily losing jobs, but they’re not being hired, either,” Petermala noted.

However, the tough job market hasn’t necessarily been reflected at employment centres in Guelph. Susan Newcombe, Summer Job Service Coordinator for the Second Chance Employment Centre, said visits by students were about the same as last year.

“We had about 500 visits by students in the month of May, both high school and post-secondary, which is typical for this time of year,” Newcombe said.

However, she noted that many employers were hiring back the same students as last year, making it difficult for first-time workers to get their feet in the door.

“I know a lot of students who are going around to places and hearing ‘We’re not hiring new people’,” she said.

Many young people were also searching for jobs online rather than at a job centre, which makes it difficult to gauge how many students were struggling to find work, she added.

There were some bright spots in the report. While most other industries were on the decline, the information, culture and recreation sector added 6000 jobs between May and April.

Petemala said these positions, representing seasonal work at summer camps, parks and festivals, would appeal to students looking for summer work.

The decline in student jobs was echoed by national unemployment figures. Following some unexpected gains in April, Canada shed 41,000 jobs in the month of May, increasing the unemployment rate to 8.4 per cent.

Ontario continued to lead the pack in employment decline. It lost 60,000 jobs last month, mostly from its manufacturing sector. The province’s unemployment rate rose by 0.7 percentage points from April to 9.4 per cent, the highest in 15 years.

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