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Study: Employment patterns of postsecondary students

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Employment patterns for postsecondary students who work during the school year changed significantly during the recent economic downturn.

During the 2009/2010 school year, about 542,000 postsecondary students aged 15 to 24 held jobs. This represented an employment rate of 45%, down from 48% in 2007/2008, just before the economic downturn. Nevertheless, these rates were well above those during the 1970s when 25% of students were employed.

Between 2007/2008 and 2009/2010, employment among full-time CEGEP, community college and university students declined by 30,000. Of those who were employed during the school year, 9 out of 10 worked part time.

Although students worked one hour less per week after the downturn, hourly wages increased from $10.75 to $11.80. As a result, average earnings for employed students held their ground at $6,300 during the 2009/2010 school year.

Women were more likely than men to pursue postsecondary schooling in 2009/2010, representing 56% of the postsecondary student population. About 50% of women had a job while at school compared with 40% of men.

Students aged 20 to 24 were also more likely to work while attending school than those aged 15 to 19 (47% versus 43%), as were the Canadian-born (49%) compared with immigrant students (32%).

Almost all students employed during the 2009/2010 school year worked in the service sector (96%), with 36% in retail trade and 18% in food services. The 200,000 students working in retail trade represented 10% of all jobs in that industry.

The article "Employment patterns of postsecondary students" also examined student employment during the summer of 2009. It found that this was the worst labour market for postsecondary students aged 20 to 24 since the recession years of 1982 and 1993.

There was some improvement during the summer of 2010. Although employed students earned roughly $7,000 during the summers of both 2008 and 2009, there were 40,000 fewer students with jobs.

Between the summers of 2008 and 2009, the employment rate for students aged 20 to 24 fell from 70% to 63%. At the same time, the unemployment rate for this group rose from 9% to 14%, while the percentage with a full-time job declined from 61% to 57%.

In 2010, the employment and unemployment rates for students aged 20 to 24 stood at 66% and 8%, while 52% of these students had a full-time job.

Note: This study used data from the Labour Force Survey to examine long-term trends in employment during the school year among young people aged 15 to 24 enrolled full time in community college, CEGEPs or university, with particular focus on the recent downturn and nascent recovery. It also profiles students who had a job in the 2009/2010 school year.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3701.

The articles "Employment patterns of postsecondary students" and "Recognition of newcomers' foreign credentials and work experience" are now available in the September 2010 online edition of Perspectives on Labour and Income, Vol. 11, no. 9 (75-001-X, free). From the Key resource module of our website choose Publications.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Katherine Marshall (613-951-6890;, Labour Statistics Division.