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Older workers have the edge in current recovery

A recent study by Statistics Canada shows the June jobless rate among youth aged 15 to 24 was 14.8 per cent -- a 21-month high. At the same time, the unemployment rate for people 25 and over was 5.8 per cent -- the lowest since December, 2008.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

The diverging paths between younger and older workers in Canada is becoming ever more pronounced, with the 55-plus crowd comprising a growing share of the workplace while students still struggle.

"The employment performance of younger and older workers has differed over the recovery," says a recent study from Statistics Canada that examines the country's economic performance since the recession.

The paper, based on quarterly GDP data, shows the June jobless rate among youth aged 15 to 24 was 14.8 per cent -- a 21-month high. At the same time, the unemployment rate for people 25 and over was 5.8 per cent -- the lowest since December, 2008.

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(It's worth noting the youth jobless rate has ticked even higher since then, to 15 per cent in September. The adult rate has also risen a bit, to 6 per cent).

It's not just Canada. Young people have struggled disproportionately in many advanced economies since the downturn. The International Labour Organization said this month youth unemployment rates through the G20 "remain alarming," and urged better training and access to apprenticements.

In the first half of this year, youth employment shrank and the size of the youth labour force expanded, Statscan noted. As a result, "youth employment has not yet recovered to its pre-recession peak in September, 2008."

By contrast, "adult employment recovered by April, 2010, and has continued to expand."

Older workers, meantime, make up a growing share of the work force. Employment among workers aged 55 and over has increased dramatically during the recovery. This set accounted for 21.3 per cent of adult employment in the first half of this year, up from 18.4 per cent in 2008.

Here are some other findings from the report, written by Cyndi Bloskie and Guy Gellatly:

-- Canada's recovery in output since recession is strongest of the G7. Real GDP in Canada has expanded 8.5 per cent since the depths of the recession, more than the 6.7-per-cent growth in the United States.

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-- Since the start of the recovery, GDP growth in Canada has outstripped employment growth.

-- Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia led employment gains in the first half of this year. The jobless rate is much lower than the 8.7-per-cent peak of the recession, though it remains 1.4 percentage points above the 6-per-cent average during 2007 and 2008.

-- Economic growth in recent quarters was led by increases in non-residential business investment. This spending has risen in 11 of the past 12 quarters as investment in structures rose, while spending on machinery and equipment was flat. Investment in intellectual property -- which includes research & development spending -- is still 10 per cent below its pre-recession peak.

-- The trade picture has shifted in the recovery. Imports have outpaced exports since 2009, influenced at least in part by a strong Canadian dollar. Exports began to fade before the start of the recession, and have yet to return to 2007 levels.

-- Back in 2009, housing starts plunged to less than half of their pre-recession average of the prior two years, hitting their lowest level since 1996. "With ground-breaking on new homes currently at high levels, housing starts have recovered to their pre-recession average," the paper said.

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