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(Jeff McIntosh/Jeff McIntosh/The Globe and Mail)
(Jeff McIntosh/Jeff McIntosh/The Globe and Mail)

Layoffs came early in recession, study says Add to ...

Job losses occurred much more rapidly in the early months of this recession than in the two previous recessions in 1981 and 1990, a report said Thursday.

Last October, employment hit a record in Canada. Five months later, it had plunged 2.1 per cent. By contrast, after five months in 1981 and 1990, it dropped 0.8 per cent and 0.6 per cent, respectively, a Statistics Canada paper showed.

The recent decline was rapid, but the labour market soon stabilized. In the next seven months of the current downturn, employment was relatively stable, while employment continued to fall in previous downturns (in the 1981-1982 recession it fell for 17 months).

The hardest hit workers have been young people, low-paid workers, families with young children, and recent working-age immigrants and staff in the manufacturing and construction sectors, the study showed.

Immigrants who have arrived in Canada in the past five years have seen employment fall at more than five times the rate of Canadian-born workers. Between October of last year, and October of this year, employment tumbled 12.9 per cent compared with a 2.2-per-cent drop among Canadian-born people.

"The bulk of the losses for these immigrants occurred among those working in manufacturing," said Statscan authors Sébastien Larochelle-Coté and Jason Gilmore.

It's a different story for immigrants who have been in the country longer. Immigrants who have been in Canada for five to 10 years experienced smaller losses than the Canadian-born in the past year, and those who landed more than 10 years earlier saw modest employment gains.

Across Canada, the economy lost 400,000 jobs over the past year, sending the unemployment rate to a near-11-year high of 8.6 per cent, up from 6.3 per cent last year.

The sharp decline among factory and construction jobs is similar to drops in previous recessions.

The manufacturing sector has now shed 573,000 jobs since November, 2002. Job losses in the past year have been among fabricated metal products; transportation equipment manufacturing; paper and printing; and furniture and related manufacturing, Statscan said.

In construction, all of the decrease occurred in the first five months of the downturn.

Jobs were created in some sectors such as real estate and leasing; information, culture and recreation; and health care and social assistance.

Employment gains also happened among people over the age of 55.

The private sector was especially weak. About 449,000 private-sector positions vanished compared with a smaller drop of 55,000 among public employees. At the same time, self-employment rose by 104,000.

Employment among workers earning less than $10 an hour plunged 24.8 per cent, the largest decline. The majority were youth, but nearly one-third were aged 25 to 54, Statscan said.

On the other hand, the number of employees who earned $40 or more an hour increased in the past year.

Youth joblessness rose, a typical trend during economic downturns. Employment fell throughout the past year among people aged 15 to 24.

Families with children were "notably affected," the report said. Single mothers with children saw employment decline by 6.8 per cent. Employment fell by 2.5 per cent among moms and 2.4 per cent among dads in two-parent families with at least one child.

The past year has also seen a switch to more temporary jobs and less full-time employment. The number of full-time workers with a shorter schedule (between 30 and 34 hours) increased.

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