Hi there. Just a slight deviation from the summer publication schedule to bring you some perspective on the youth employment numbers coming out of StatsCan today.
Unless something has gone seriously gaga in the youth labour market in the past few weeks, today’s Labour Force Survey release will say that slightly over 70% of students aged 20-24 are employed and that unemployment among these students is in the 7-9% range. That sounds pretty good; the problem is that StatsCan’s definition of unemployment doesn’t even vaguely correspond to how students see the issue.
The basic problem is that StatsCan defines someone as being “out of the labour force” if they are in full-time studies; as a result, students taking summer courses are excluded from the calculation. But in fact, as our own 2012 survey of summer employment showed, over 70% of summer students are also either working or looking for a job; among this group, unemployment typically runs at between 20 and 30% (last year, the figure was 29%; this year, it is 23%). Indeed, one reason many students take summer courses in the first place is precisely because their jobs search was unsuccessful!
Although our full annual employment report won’t be out for a bit, I want to provide you with some statistics on one other labour issue currently generating a lot of attention: unpaid internships. Our preliminary examination of the data suggests that 5.4% of students are in some kind of internship or practicum this summer. Of these, roughly half are educationally-related (e.g. mandated practicums in teaching or social work), meaning that about 2.7% of all students (or about 27,000 across the country) are in unpaid internships this summer. That’s a long way below the 100-300K estimates one sees in the press these days, but it’s not inconsistent with those numbers since a) those larger figures represent internship positions across an entire year rather than positions at any one time, and b) our survey looks only at current university students and does not include either college students or recent graduates.
Lastly, a key point about these unpaid internships: they’re mostly part-time affairs. The median unpaid internship is just a 14 hours per week commitment; as a result, fully half of the students with unpaid internships are able to gain an income by working either full- or part-time.
Have a good weekend, and be wary of overly rosy LFS statistics.