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It’s even harder for young people to find jobs, and the unemployment rate proves it | CBC News

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Nearly a year after graduating from Carleton University with a degree in engineering physics, Surya Nareshan is still struggling to find employment.

Nareshan, who lives in Ottawa, has applied for dozens of positions since May — mostly in software engineering and optics. While he’s made it through multiple rounds of interviews, including elaborate proficiency testing, he hasn’t yet found a permanent job.

“I’ve applied to 80-plus jobs at this point, and often you don’t even hear back,” the 24-year-old told CBC News.

With the latest numbers showing that unemployment is up among youth, a sizeable share of the increase in Canada’s overall unemployment rate since April last year is due to new job seekers — young people and recent graduates like Nareshan — who are spending more time looking for work, according to an analysis by RBC Economics.

Nareshan said he expected that paying higher tuition for a technical degree would give him a leg up in the job market.

Now, even just saying that he’s unemployed makes him feel down.

“I guess there’s just like a sunk-cost fallacy at this point for me,” he said. “Eventually I’ll just transition to another direction if nothing works out. But hopefully that won’t be the case.”

New job seekers behind unemployment: economist

StatsCan data released Friday showed that youth were employed at the lowest level since February 2012, barring the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

There has been almost no employment growth among youth between the ages of 15 and 24 since December 2022.

An RBC report published in January stated that while Canada’s population has been growing quickly, it’s students and new graduates driving the increase in the unemployment rate, not newcomers.

Friday’s fresh data highlighted that youth are “bearing the brunt” of the labour market downturn, RBC economist Carrie Freestone, who co-authored the report, told CBC News.

Since April 2023, “half of the increase in the unemployment rate came from job seekers who were previously not in the labour force because they were in school,” Freestone said.

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The English for Employment program run by Edmonton’s Multicultural Health Brokers Co-operative pairs newcomers to Canada with employers in the hospitality industry. The goal: to empower participants with language and professional skills that will help them make Canada their home.

Some are recent university graduates, while the others are students or recent high school graduates, she added.

Freestone noted that since mid-2023, “we’ve gotten a lot of data points that were almost at odds with each other.” 

The unemployment rate has been rising overall, but with Canada’s population growing at its fastest rate since 1957, the data still shows job gains more or less month to month, she said.

“What that means right now is [that], relative to the size of the labour force, the portion of participants in Canada who are unemployed is rising,” she said.

While only part of the rising unemployment rate can be explained by layoffs, there’s been a significant uptick in job cuts, an acceleration that started in March, Freestone said.

“So the labour market is definitely softening … and students are definitely still in a position where they’re searching for jobs for longer,” she added.

Nareshan, the Carleton graduate, said he might pursue a master’s degree to boost his resume — he suspects that, with so many layoffs across the tech sector, he could be competing with more experienced candidates who’ve recently lost their jobs.

“After conducting interviews, I’ll reach out for feedback. And there’s been numerous times where I’ve lost out to somebody who’s had literally five years of experience or has a master’s degree and all these other things,” Nareshan said.

In the meantime, he said he’s making money through freelance work and tutoring gigs. He might have to move back in with parents, and while wants to continue living in Canada, he might look to the U.S. or elsewhere if he can’t find a job here.

“A lot of us new grads are expected to have more experience that we don’t have,” he said.

Prepping young people for lengthy job search

A woman wearing glasses and a black jacket stands with her hands in her pocket.
Wincy Li is the associate director of the Career Co-op and Student Success Centre at Toronto Metropolitan University, which helps students who are looking for jobs and planning their career. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Over at Toronto Metropolitan University, 21-year-old Claire Fitzpatrick is in her final year of a social work degree. With graduation on the horizon, she’s applied for more than 50 entry-level jobs since last month, but has yet to land a full-time permanent job.

“I thought a degree in social work was practical. It is a job type of degree,” Fitzpatrick told CBC News. “So I thought getting a degree in social work versus something similar like psychology or sociology, it would be a bit easier for me to find a job after graduating.”

Right now, Fitzpatrick works at the University’s Career Co-op and Student Success Centre, which helps students who are looking for jobs and planning their career. According to its associate director Wincy Li, the office continues to meet with students long after they’ve received a diploma.

“The reason why we have a five-year alumni policy is because we understand that sometimes it takes a while for students to get a job after they graduate,” though that sometimes depends on which industry they’re applying into, Li told CBC News.

“I think over the last couple of years, what we’ve seen is a lot of students expressing more anxiety, [a] heightened sense of anxiety as a result of the pandemic, but also [due to] a lot of the economic conditions that are constantly evolving.”

A young woman wearing glasses and a green shirt holds onto the shoulder strap of her backpack.
‘I did not predict it would be this challenging for me to find an entry level role at all,’ said 21-year-old Claire Fitzpatrick, a fourth-year social work student at Toronto Metropolitan University. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

For her part, Fitzpatrick wants to work with adults who have disabilities. She says she’s broadened her job search far beyond that — applying on job boards on LinkedIn and Indeed, and by reaching out directly to specific organizations.

“It’s especially important because I have Type 1 diabetes, and once I graduate, I’m off my parents health insurance. So having health insurance, even compared to a wage, is very important for me just because of the cost of my medical supplies.”

She expects that applicants with more experience, or those who have a graduate degree, are getting the jobs for which she’s applied. Fitzpatrick hopes to go to graduate school eventually, but she says its competitive nature means “you need to be at the top of your class to make it into most programs.”

“I did not predict it would be this challenging for me to find an entry level role at all,” she said.

There’s gotta be more that can be done because there are all these very qualified young graduates who can’t get a job.”

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