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andrew jackson

The Conservative Party recently launched the "We're Better off with Harper" campaign with the claim that "with over one million net new jobs created in the recovery, Canada's economy is on the right track – thanks to the strong leadership of Stephen Harper and Canada's Conservatives."

There have indeed been more than one million jobs created since mid-2009 when the recovery began. But the job market in Canada is still far weaker than was the case before the recession.

The national unemployment rate in June, 2014 was, at 7.1 per cent, still much higher than 6.0 per cent in June, 2008.

And Canada's employment rate – the proportion of the working-age population with a job – is even further below pre-recession levels.

Between June, 2008, and June, 2014, the employment rate (seasonally adjusted) fell to 61.4 per cent from 63.5 per cent, a fall of 2.1 percentage points. The fall was much greater for men (2.7 percentage points) than for women (1.5 percentage points.)

While the employment rate has fallen a bit because of population aging, the youth employment rate, for persons age 15 to 24, fell sharply to 55.0 per cent from 59.5 per cent, and the so-called core age group (age 25 to 54) employment rate fell to 80.6 per cent from 82.3 per cent. Among the provinces, Ontario and British Columbia, often considered the key battlegrounds for the next federal election, are the furthest away from returning to the job market conditions of 2008.

Further, as of June, 2014, the proportion of part-timers seeking full-time time work was 31.0 per cent, up from 25.7 per cent in June, 2008. (Data not seasonally adjusted.)

Partly because there is still so much slack in the job market, the quality of the new jobs created in the recovery leaves a lot to be desired.

Between June, 2009, and June, 2014, the economy created more than one million (1,066,600) paid jobs. (not seasonally adjusted). But one in four (23.7 per cent) of the new employees were in temporary positions, meaning that they were term jobs with a defined end date, casual jobs, or seasonal jobs. The big growth has been in contract and casual employment.

This recent growth in temporary employment has been much greater than one would have expected, given that such jobs made up just 14.1 per cent of all jobs back in June, 2009.

While there has been little difference in the growth of temporary work for women and men, the increase has been most noticeable among younger workers.

An increase in temporary positions accounted for all net job growth for those age 15 to 24, as permanent employment fell while temporary employment rose modestly. For those aged 25 to 44, temporary employment rose by 30.3 per cent over the period of recovery, much greater than the 10.5 per cent of persons in this age group in temporary employment back in June, 2009.

Contract jobs are more insecure and also generally pay less than permanent jobs, and are certainly less desirable for most workers other than students and some older workers.

While there has been significant job creation across most industries and occupations in the recovery, it is also notable that there has been a modest tilt toward employment in low-skill and low-paid occupations. Between June, 2009, and June, 2014, 27.9 per cent of the net new jobs were in the two lowest-skill/lowest-paid occupational categories, i.e. sales and service workers, and labourers in construction and industry.

Finally worth noting is the fact that the median hourly wage (half earn more and half earn less) has not kept pace with price increases in the recovery. Between May, 2009, and May, 2014, wages by this measure increased by 0.5 percentage points less than the consumer price index.

Put it all together, and for all the hype about one million net new jobs, Canada's job market is still very weak.

Andrew Jackson is the former Packer Professor at York University and senior policy adviser to the Broadbent Institute.