The world's leading industrialized nations are likely going to set a record for postwar unemployment in 2010, according to a forecast by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Despite early signs of economic recovery, in most countries unemployment will rise further next year and remain high for the immediate future, according to the OECD's 2009 Employment Outlook, which was released on Wednesday.
The jobless rate will approach 10 per cent, or 57 million unemployed people, in the latter half of 2010, as the global economy looks set for only a timid recovery, the OECD said.
That compares to the current postwar high of 8.3 per cent in its 30 members countries, as of last June.
'Bottom line' of crisis
"Employment is the bottom line of the current crisis," OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria said.
The OECD said nearly 15 million people have joined the ranks of the jobless since the end of 2007.
The Paris-based watchdog calls the short-term jobs outlook "grim," adding that labour market conditions appear set to deteriorate further in the coming months.
It also says there is a risk the rise in joblessness could result in a permanently higher unemployment level that could take many years to bring down.
OECD report is pessimistic about Canadian labour markets over the next few years, noting that even if the jobless rate has peaked at 8.7 per cent, "Canada's labour market typically takes a long time to recover from recessions."
The organization points out that Canada's unemployment rate hit a recessionary high in 1993, but that it took almost eight years after that before the rate returned to pre-recession levels.
"Previous downturns have taught us that the jobs recovery will lag a long way behind the pickup in economic growth," Gurria said.
Youth hardest hit
Under the scenario laid out in the report, the number of unemployed in the OECD will rise by more than 25 million people in less than three years, comparable to the job losses over the 10-year period until the early 1980s.
Governments must act fast and decisively to prevent the recession turning into a long-term unemployment crisis, Gurria said. "It is essential that governments focus on helping job seekers in the months to come."
Young people will be hardest hit by the crisis and industrialized countries risk having a "lost generation" of youth who fall into long-term unemployment that causes them to lose touch with the job market, the report said.
The organization urges governments to spend more on active labour market policies, such as job-seeker support, training and labour-demand support, that help the unemployed find work.
A co-ordinated policy response that takes poverty and the developing world into consideration is the best approach to combating unemployment, according to the OECD.