Older workers see job gains, while market tightens for the young

Canada's job market is steadily improving, but there's one demographic group where it's especially strong — booming, even.

Almost one out of every 7 seniors in Canada has a job, new Statistics Canada data shows

Canada's job market might be booming, but primarily for baby boomers, according to the latest jobs numbers out from Statistics Canada on Friday. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)

Canada's job market is steadily improving, but there's one demographic group gobbling up more and more of the new jobs: older workers.

There were more than 24,000 new jobs created in April for workers 55 years and older, Statistics Canada reported this week, the fastest growth rate for any age group.

Census data released this week shows that Canada is getting older.

There are now more people aged 65 and older than children in Canada for the first time. And many in the baby boomer demographic bulge are in no rush to quit working as they enter their golden years.

In the past 12 months, more than 275,000 new jobs have been created in Canada's economy. But almost half of them — 133,000, to be exact — have gone to workers 55 and up.

Torontonian Morganna Kelly is one such older worker, who retired in her late 60s only to soon find herself looking to jump back in.

One of Kelly's gigs in her golden years is with Seniors for Seniors, an agency that pairs up members of the 55 and up demographic with others who need help running errands and other tasks. Kelly got involved because she wanted to keep busy, but also to help supplement her retirement income.

"Toronto is an extremely expensive city," she told CBC News in an interview, "so even if you have a good pension ... it's very difficult to make it work."

Workers like Kelly are not alone. April's data suggests that almost one out of every seven Canadian seniors aged 65 and older has a job. 

What about younger workers? 

Contrast that with what's happening on the opposite end of Canada's demographic spectrum. According to April's numbers, the jobless rate for workers under 25 is almost twice the overall average, at just under 12 per cent.

It's not unusual for  younger workers to have a higher unemployment rate than the overall workforce — but Dominion Lending Centre economist Sherry Cooper expressed some concern about the rate at which young people are dropping out of the job hunt. 

More than 45,000 people dropped out of the labour force in April, bringing the overall jobless rate to its lowest level since 2008.

"About half of those were youth," Cooper said, "meaning many young people looking for work have stopped looking."

Some of those workers are likely returning to school, or upgrading training, but some of them may have just given up.

Cooper was especially concerned because the job market for young people is "virtually unchanged" over the past 12 months. That means the number of young people working is about the same is it was last year, even though there are more young people vying for jobs.

If it keeps up, an economy in which older workers keep working but young workers have trouble breaking in could be bad news for Canada, as young people struggle to find a path in the workforce and delay major decisions like buying a home or starting families. 

But economist Beata Caranci with Toronto-Dominion bank says it shouldn't be looked at as a zero-sum game where what's good news for older workers is necessarily bad news for the young.

"I don't perceive it to be a negative factor at all, in terms of squeezing out other parts of the job market," she said. Older workers staying engaged in the workforce for longer helps everyone, mainly because it helps them stay as consumers and spenders, too.

"They're staying in the market, they're earning an income and they're spending, and taking vacations and all those wonderful things that go along with it," Caranci said.

(Census 2016/CBC)