Canada’s youngest job seekers, who have taken the biggest unemployment hit since the recession began, face challenging job prospects "for several more years," an analysis by TD Economics suggests.
The report comes a day ahead of Canada's unemployment figures for February, with most analysts expecting the jobless rate to stay unchanged at 7.6 per cent.
Economist Francis Fong suggests the economic recovery has been "almost non-existent" for Canadians aged from 15 to 24.
While they accounted for more than half of all net job losses during the 2008-09 recession, employment in that age bracket still stands some 250,000 below its peak before the downturn.
In contrast, the number of jobs for those over the age of 25 has grown by more than 400,000 above the level before the downturn.
Older workers faring better
The study comes two weeks after TD released an analysis of employment among older workers, which suggested job creation for those over 60 surged during the recession and the recovery.
In the new study, Fong says that young workers who represent just 16.5 per cent of the labour force accounted for more than half the net jobs lost — more than 430,000 — during the recession.
And for them, the recovery has meant the creation of just 1,300 net jobs in the last 2½ years.
Many young people have simply stopped trying and have left the labour market, Fong concludes.
Among 20- to 24-year-olds, the participation rate — the share of the population either working or looking for work — is still about two percentage points lower than its pre-recession peak.
The participation rate of 15- to 19-year-olds hit a 14-year low this past January.
"In total, roughly 175,000 young Canadians have left the labour force since the recession began," Fong says.
"Not surprisingly, many have returned to school to either upgrade their skills or earn another degree."
Historically, younger workers have always been the first to lose their jobs during downturns, Fong says, because they have less tenure and fewer skills than their older counterparts.
Previous recessions hit young even harder
But younger Canadian workers have actually fared better in the latest recession than in the past.
In the downturns in the 1980s and 1990s, younger workers bore upward of 77.5 per cent of the total job losses, and their unemployment rate took longer to decline than that of other age groups.
And on a day when Greece announced unemployment among those aged 15 to 24 there has now reached 51.1 per cent, Canadian young people — with a jobless rate of 14.5 per cent — are faring better than those in some of the worst-hit countries in Europe.
All the same, Fong says, younger Canadian workers face significant challenges, including competition from older workers looking to re-enter the labour market and those more experienced who lost their jobs during the recession.
"Many older Canadians are delaying retirement and preventing job vacancies from building," says Fong, giving as an example the retail sector, where workers aged 60 years and over have begun to increase their presence.