Youth employment prospects not so dim, report suggests

Hundreds of hopeful job seekers for Toronto's CNE job fair in this file photo. (JACK BOLAND/QMi...

Hundreds of hopeful job seekers for Toronto's CNE job fair in this file photo. (JACK BOLAND/QMi Agency)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:11 PM ET

Despite all the talk about students and recent grads struggling to find work since the recession, a new report suggests the outlook isn't as bleak as it seems.

But while Canadians between 15 and 24 years of age are finding work easily enough, they're not starting the kind of careers they're qualified for, according to a report released Tuesday by the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada.

Peak youth unemployment in Canada during the recent recession (15.2% ) was lower than that experienced during the past two recessions — 19.2% in 1983 and 17.2% in 1992 — the report says.

"Conventional thinking seems to be that the jobless situation for youth has never been so bad. It's challenging, that's for sure. But it has been worse," CGA-Canada president and CEO Anthony Ariganello said in a statement. "The situation today is not dire and so we need to reinforce the message to youth to not despair"

Canadian youth are faring well compared to those in other countries hit by the recession. Canada's youth unemployment rate is the 11th lowest among the 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, CGA-Canada says.

What's more, Canadian youth tend not to be unemployed for very long. Nearly half of young Canadians unemployed in 2011 (46.8%) found a job within one to four weeks. Just 5.4% were unemployed for a year or more.

The real problem, the report argues, isn't unemployment, but underemployment.

In 2011, 24.6% of young Canadians with university degrees were working in jobs that didn't require one.

"Underemployment is a big issue not only for youth, but for people of all ages," report co-author Rock Lefebvre said. "And while we know how harmful underemployment is for individuals as well as to the economy, we know far less about what causes it."