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Jobs in June: Youth boost is biggest since last summer

School is out and summer hospitality and retail jobs are back in business as COVID-19 restrictions fall away, the latest national employment data showed on Friday.

The job gains Statistics Canada recorded for June were mostly among youth and in part-time work, the federal agency said, including a sharp improvement in the fortunes of returning students aged 20 to 24, meaning those who recently moved from high school into post-secondary education.

Employment among youth aged 15 to 24 rose by 164,000, the largest monthly increase since July 2020.

A burst of work in the summer months can be key to many students being able to afford tuition and other costs sustained during the academic year and to otherwise acquire work experience.

In May, their employment rate was nearly 10 percentage points below the May average from 2014 to 2019 (51 per cent vs 60.8 percent). By June, it had jumped to 67.5 per cent, close to that month’s historical average of 68 per cent.

The gains coincided with the loosening of public health restrictions in eight provinces where indoor and outdoor dining, recreation and cultural activities, retail shopping, and personal care services resumed with limits.

A stay-at-home order was lifted in Ontario, but the province kept remote schooling in place that around Toronto had started in early April, and has still not allowed indoor dining or gyms. (On Friday, the government said it would move to Stage 3 of its reopening next Friday, earlier than expected as vaccine rates exceed guidelines.)

“As economic restrictions across much of Canada began to ease, the labour market responded with solid employment gains concentrated in sectors where the restrictions have been most punishing,” economist Liam Daly from the Conference Board of Canada said in a statement.

“Improvements in several high-contact service industries drove growth in part-time employment and provided welcome job growth among young and female workers,” he added, noting an expectation that progress towards a full reopening can be sustained.

In accommodation and food services, for example, a total of 101,000 new jobs were created, mostly in Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.

Following two months of losses, overall employment in Ontario rose by 117,000 as strict public health measures began to ease.

The 231,000 total new jobs created in June left the country about 340,000 jobs, or almost two per cent, below pre-pandemic levels, but the employment gap is closer to 540,000 jobs once population growth is accounted for, Statistics Canada said.

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