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Study: Changing labour market conditions for young Canadians

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Released: 2013-07-04

Over the past three decades, the employment outcomes of young Canadians aged 15 to 34 evolved differently across periods, gender, age groups and provinces.

Women aged 25 to 34 had more favourable employment outcomes in 2012 than did their counterparts in 1981. They had lower unemployment rates, greater incidence of full-time employment, and higher wages in 2012 than in 1981.

Men aged 25 to 34 living in the oil-producing provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador had mixed results. They had lower full-time employment rates in 2012 than in 1981. However, their wages were higher in 2012 and their unemployment rate was relatively low in both years.

In contrast, men aged 25 to 34 living in non-oil-producing provinces had lower employment outcomes in 2012 than in 1981 in all three components.

Among men and women under 25, employment conditions also deteriorated between 1981 and 2012, but less so in oil-producing provinces.

Most of the deterioration in the full-time employment rates and wages of young Canadians took place during the 1980s and 1990s. These labour market indicators improved during most of the 2000s, but not enough to fully offset previous declines.

Women aged 25 to 34 had better outcomes in 2012 than in 1981

Like other young Canadians, women aged 25 to 34 saw their unemployment rate vary with the business cycle. The rate stood at 6.2% in 2012, down from 8.3% in 1981.

In 2012, 61.7% of women aged 25 to 34 held a full-time job, up from 47.7% in 1981.

After adjusting for inflation, the median hourly wage of women employed full time increased 13% from 1981 to 2012.

These improvements in unemployment, full-time employment rates and wages were observed both in oil-producing provinces and non-oil-producing provinces.

Men aged 25 to 34 living in non oil-producing provinces had lower outcomes in 2012 than in 1981

Contrary to their female counterparts, men aged 25 to 34 generally had lower outcomes in 2012 than in 1981.

Their nationwide unemployment rate was 7.5% in 2012, up from 6.2% in 1981.

In 2012, 78.5% of men aged 25 to 34 held a full-time job, down from 87.0% in 1981. In addition, those who were employed full time as paid workers saw their median hourly wages drop 4% over the period.

These national-level numbers mask important differences between oil-producing provinces and the rest of the country.

In oil-producing provinces, men aged 25 to 34 saw their full-time employment rate fall from 90.2% in 1981 to 85.9% in 2012. However, their wages rose by 6% during this period and their unemployment rate was relatively low in both years, at 4.2% in 1981 and 4.4% in 2012.

In other provinces, men aged 25 to 34 had lower outcomes in 2012 than in 1981 on all three indicators. Their unemployment rate rose from 6.7% to 8.1%, their full-time employment rate dropped from 86.3% to 76.9% and their wages fell by 6%.

Labour market conditions weakened for men and women under 25

Men and women under 25 years old also experienced lower employment outcomes between 1981 and 2012.

In this age group, unemployment rates increased both for men (from 13.7% in 1981 to 15.9% in 2012) and to a lesser extent for women (11.7% to 12.6%).

Men under 25 who were not attending school full time saw their full-time employment rate drop from 72.1% in 1981 to 57.1% in 2012. Their female counterparts also experienced a drop, from 57.8% in 1981 to 46.1% in 2012.

Young men and women under 25 also experienced a drop in pay rates (in constant dollars). From 1981 to 2012, the median hourly wage earned in full-time jobs fell by 13% for men and 8% for women.

These declines in wages and full-time employment rates were less pronounced in oil-producing provinces than in non-oil producing provinces.

  Note to readers

This release uses data from the Labour Force Survey, the Census of Population, and several other household surveys to document the evolution of young Canadians' socio-economic outcomes over the last three decades, with a focus on demographic and labour market outcomes.

The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed individuals as a percentage of the labour force (employed and unemployed).

The full-time employment rate is the number of employed persons with a full-time job as a percentage of the population.

The median hourly wage is the hourly wage value for which half of full-time workers earns less and the other half earns more.

Individuals under 25 refer to those aged 15 to 24 when unemployment rates and full-time employment rates are considered and to those aged 17 to 24 when wages are examined.

Oil-producing provinces refer to Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Non-oil-producing provinces refer to the remaining Canadian provinces.

While the surveys used in this release allow an examination of gender-specific youth wage trends across these two groups of provinces, sample size restrictions preclude analyses of such trends for each of the 10 provinces. Thus, readers should be aware that findings regarding these two groups of provinces do not necessarily apply for each province within each group.

The article "What has changed for young people in Canada?" is now available online in the July 2013 edition of Insights on Canadian Society (Catalogue number75-006-X). From the Browse by key resource module of our website, choose Publications.

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, René Morissette (613-951-3608;, Social Analysis Division, or Diane Galarneau (613-951-4626;, Labour Statistics Division.

For more information on Insights on Canadian Society, contact Sébastien LaRochelle-Côté (613-951-0803;, Labour Statistics Division.

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