CUP Ottawa Bureau Chief
OTTAWA (CUP) — Richard Mah would guess he sent out about 300 resumÃ©s last summer and never got a job.
He was on the wrong side of an unfortunate statistic. In July 2009, Statistics Canada recorded its highest youth unemployment rate ever, as one in five young people found themselves jobless.
Mah’s now part of more optimistic statistic, though — he was one of 29,000 Canadian students who found employment in January. Not only did he accept a placement in the University of Ottawa’s work-study program, but he is also expecting several job offers to be awaiting after graduation this spring.
But the road to that job was hard.
“Everyone was screwed last summer,” said Mah, a fourth-year biomedical sciences student at the University of Ottawa.
“I guess I would have started (applying for work) around March or April . . . I applied to everything that I could find,” he explained. He applied through his school, to the government, and to retail jobs. And nothing came up.
“I would send away 20-30 resumes at a time, being like, ”˜Let’s see if I get anything this time,’ and for the most part, I really didn’t hear anything back at all.”
After sending hundreds of resumÃ©s, he said he only got three or four interviews. “I felt really defeated — I mean, I wasted how many months of sending things out, pounding the pavement? And I had nothing to show for it.”
Luckily, many students have found work since last summer’s high rates of unemployment, according to a Statistics Canada report released last week.
The Feb. 5 Labour Force Survey release indicated the student jobless rate is now sitting at 15.1 per cent, down from the 16 per cent reported at the end of 2009 — making this the most significant increase in youth employment since fall 2008.
“Right now, the way to characterize the state of the labour market is (that) we’re in a holding pattern,” said Miles Corak, a professor specializing in labour economics, unemployment, and poverty with the University of Ottawa’s graduate school of public and international affairs.
“The economy is starting to turn around (and) there’s growth in production, but it’s going to take a longer time for that to feed into the labour market and to lower unemployment rates,” he continued. “A lot of people got discouraged by the (poor employment) situation of last year and have stopped looking for work — they might start coming back into the market (now).”
Few Canadian students have forgotten about the discouragement they faced last year, when unemployment rates among youth hit 20.9 per cent.
Mah, originally from a small town in Saskatchewan, explained that the extensive and unsuccessful search for employment even took a toll on his personal life.
“It’s hard living away from home . . . There (are) a lot of people who live close to home (who) can go home whenever they need to — I’m kind of stuck out here on my own, and it was really stressful for even me and my family,” he said, adding that his parents felt the unemployment issue was his fault.
Can other Canadian students expect the employment increases to continue?
“You’re not going to see a huge spike in employment—there (are) going to be steady gains that incrementally build up,” offered Corak. “Things will be better than they were last year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to be as good as they were two summers ago.”
Canada is still out 280,000 jobs compared to the start of the economic recession in October 2008, and not all corners of the country experienced an increase in employment — Nova Scotians lost 5,000 jobs in January and are now facing a 9.8 per cent unemployment rate.
Regardless, Corak maintained that it is just a matter of time before Canadians hear of better news.
“We’re moving in the right direction—but how fast we move, I think (that) is where you might have some disputes.”
Illustration: Alex Martin – The Fulcrum