The recession of the 1990s left deep cuts for young people — so deep, a new report suggests, that things never really recovered.

Employment earnings of Hamilton's young people have declined by about 50 per cent since 1976, according to a new report from the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton.

"There were dramatic drops in the employment income of youth aged 20-24 after the 1980s and 1990s recession in Hamilton and across Ontario, and there hasn't been any recovery since then," said Sara Mayo, the report's author. Read the report here.

Earnings for Hamilton's census metropolitan area (CMA) workers aged 25-34 are second lowest among large Ontario regions. The SPRC blames lower wages, fewer hours of work, decreasing access to permanent jobs and more time unemployed between contract work for the decline in pay for young workers.

'Precarious employment' a rising problem

The SPRC also says that "precarious employment" is a rising problem for young workers in Hamilton. Precarious employment refers to people without stable, secure jobs. According to a report done in part by McMaster University, only 60 per cent of workers in Hamilton and the GTA have what they'd classify as stable work.  The rest are either working short term, contract jobs with little to no security or benefits, or full time hours without security.

"This data shows that major shifts in the labour market towards precarious work are having negative impacts on youth. The reality of youth employment is very different than it was in the 1970s: many youth now face lower wages, fewer hours of work, decreasing access to permanent jobs and more time unemployed between contracts," Mayo said.

"We know also that precarious work has a negative toll on workers' physical and mental health."

The 25-34 age bracket has seen a much smaller decrease in their employment income than those aged 20-24, the report notes. The city still ranks low in that category compared to seven other large Ontario communities.

For example, the median 2010 employment income for young workers in this age group was only $27,300 in the Hamilton CMA, compared to $35,200 in Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge. Thirty two per cent of those people have a university degree, so educational differences wouldn't account for the differences in income, the report says.

The good news to be mined from the data, the report suggests, is that the City of Hamilton's youth unemployment out-performed all other communities during the 2009 recession.

"The data shows that while it might be easier for youth in Hamilton to find work than in other communities, the income from that job might not be enough to live on," Mayo said.