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The class of 2020 had some of the worst luck imaginable. They graduated during a global pandemic, resulting in layoffs, delayed job starts and cancelled interviews. At the time, economists raised concerns about their long-term income prospects, citing research on the debilitating effects of graduating during a recession.

Four years later, we have a better picture of how postsecondary graduates are faring, thanks to a report Statistics Canada published last week.

The upside is that, three years after graduation, the class of 2020′s employment rate was effectively the same as that of 2015 graduates: 90 per cent. Moreover, the median incomes of full-time employed college, bachelor’s and doctoral graduates from the 2020 cohort were similar to those of their 2015 peers, three years removed from school.

But within the class of 2020, there were divergent outcomes tied to the initial months of the health crisis. Those whose employment status or plans were affected by the pandemic in 2020 had a lower median annual income in 2023 across all levels of education. “This pattern held true when controlling for field of study,” Statscan said.

The income gap was particularly large for master’s graduates (16 per cent), but was found at all levels of study.

The Statscan paper found that about three in 10 graduates lost their jobs or were laid off in 2020, while nearly one-quarter had an employment prospect – such as a job interview – cancelled.

Years after the worst of COVID-19, the affected group was also far more likely to be jobless. In 2023, their unemployment rate (7.5 per cent) was more than twice as high as that of the unaffected group (3.6 per cent).

Matt Lundy

Decoder is a weekly feature that unpacks an important economic chart.

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