Sean Geobey

Sean Geobey wrote a report on youth unemployment for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. He found that Ontario has among the highest youth unemployment rates in the country (Colin Butler/CBC)

Young people in Ontario — especially Toronto — are among the least employed in the country, according to a new report that shows the province’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average.

The report, released Friday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, shows that for those under 24 years of age, joblessness is more common in Ontario than anywhere in Canada, aside from Atlantic Canada.

Sean Geobey, a doctoral candidate in social and environmental finance at the University of Waterloo told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Monday that one thing in his report stuck out for him the most. 

"It was the terrifying number that only one in two young Ontarians had paid employment right now," he said.  

'Worst numbers we've seen'

The report analyzed employment data from Statistics Canada over the past five years following the global economic crisis.

This year, the unemployment rate for Ontario youth between the ages of 15 and 24 was between 16 and 17.1 per cent, while the Canadian average was between 13.5 and 14.5 per cent.

"There is only one in two Ontarians between the ages 15 and 24 who have paid employment. What that is, is the worst numbers we've seen since Statscan has kept these numbers since 1976," Geobey said. 

Youth employment slightly higher in Waterloo Region

Geobey said one of the best places for youth to find jobs in Ontario right now is Waterloo Region. 

"We are faring better than the rest of Ontario, this is actually one of the best places to be a young person looking for work, but really that only means we're slightly better than the rest of the province."

Geobey said Waterloo Region has a lot in common with Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Japan and South Korea, all countries with low youth unemployment and places where there's a culture of forging strong links between education and employment. 

"One of the things that Waterloo Region has a history of doing very well is having those connections," he said.

"The University of Waterloo has the world's largest co-op program, Wilfrid Laurier University, Conestoga College also have similarly robust programs and because of that we're really leaders in the province and my hope is that the rest of the province can actually learn a bit of what is being done here."  

Youth losing jobs to older workers

Geobey said the biggest obstacle in the way of young people looking for their first jobs isn't a lack of entry level positions. 

"The thing is they're not being filled by 15, 16, 17-year-old people anymore," he said. "They're being filled by 65, 66, 67-year-old people."

"Folks who watched their retirement savings get crushed in the 2008 financial crisis have been forced to really delay retirement and a lot of people have been re-entering the workforce in order to make ends meet."

Geobey said the widening gap between youth and adult employment can have far-reaching and long-term effects on the economy. 

He said when a young worker has a hard time getting their first job, it can lead to a hard time getting their second, third and fourth job and the older they get, the longer it takes their earning power to catch up. 

"There's a phenomenon called 'scarring' which occurs when young people are not able find work they get older they haven't built up that experience they haven't built up those connections and it really does hurt their lifetime employability," he said. 

Some of Ontario’s worst youth unemployment rates

Windsor 24.7 per cent

London 20.3 per cent

Toronto 18.1 per cent

Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo 13.8 per cent

Hamilton 13.2  per cent