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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Education Matters: Students in the labour market


Employment rates for students — both during summer and throughout the school year — have improved during the past eight years. But in 2005, they were still far below the peak levels reached during the heydays of the late 1980s, according to a new study.

The study examines shifts in student employment, pay and working hours for students who had a summer job and for those who combined school and work during the academic year.

It showed that the summer job market has grown at a far slower pace in recent years than the job market for students who held jobs during the school year.

In the summer of 2005, the employment rate for students who were planning to return to their studies in the fall averaged 51.7%. This was a moderate gain of 4.8 percentage points from 46.9% in the summer of 1998, when the student job market started to trend up.

During the 2004/2005 academic year, students had an average employment rate of 38.9%, up 7.0 percentage points from the 1997/1998 school year.

Employment rates in both cases were below peaks just prior to the 1991 recession, especially during the summer months. In the summer of 1989, 61.4% of students on average were employed. During the 1989/1990 academic year, the proportion was 41.7%.

The study also found that older students were far more likely than teens to have combined school and work in 2004/2005. Female students were more likely to have jobs than male students, in part because of better job opportunities in retail trade and accommodation and food services sectors, where women are more likely to work.

Note to readers

This release is based on an article in the April 2006 edition of Statistics Canada's free online publication Education Matters: Insights on Education, Learning and Training in Canada.

The article uses data from the Labour Force Survey to examine trends in the labour market experiences of young men and women aged 15 to 24 years who are full-time students.

It further breaks the analysis into two age groups: younger students aged 15 to 17 years (of normal high school age) and older students aged 18 to 24 years old (a typical age for attending postsecondary institutions). The analysis also investigates employment during the school year (September to April) and employment during the summer months.

Education Matters, released every two months, is a source of facts and analyses on education, training and learning. It offers quick access to the latest education indicators and in-depth research from Statistics Canada. It also links electronically to a wide variety of data, news on education, learning resources and tables, charts and analyses.

In terms of summer employment, opportunities improved moderately for both younger and older students. Again, however, girls were the main beneficiaries of employment growth, and by 2005, they were far more likely than boys to have had a summer job.

Adjusted for inflation, average hourly wages for full-time students who had jobs during the school year were unchanged over the last eight years. But, because students worked an average of one hour a week more during the 2004/2005 school year than they did in 1997/1998, their total weekly wages increased slightly.

During the summer of 2005, younger students were paid less and were working fewer hours than they did in 1998. On the other hand, older students earned more than they did eight years earlier because of longer periods of work and higher base pay on average.

Combining school and work: Big gap between young teens and older students and between male and female students

Working during the academic year has become increasingly common. During the 2004/2005 academic year, an estimated 939,000 of the 2.4 million full-time students aged 15 to 24 had a job while they went to school.

Prior to 1990, employment rates for young people aged 15 to 17 and for the older group aged 18 to 24 were similar. However, the early 1990s recession hit the 15-to-17 group harder, resulting in an employment gap that still remains.

In 2005, students of all ages are more likely to be working than they were in 1997/1998, but older students are much more likely to work than their younger counterparts.

A record high 45.9% of students aged between 18 and 24 worked during the 2004/2005 school year. This compares with 31.2% of students aged 15 to 17, which was well below their peak rate of employment of 40.8% in 1989/1990.

An employment rate gap also exists between male and female students, and it has never been wider. In the 2004/2005 school year, 34.3% of female students aged 15 to 17 were working, much higher than the proportion of 28.2% among males the same age.

The gender gap was even greater among older students. Just over one-half (50.5%) of female students aged 18 to 24 were working, compared with 40.7% of male students, a record gap. This reflects employment growth in retail trade and accommodation and food services, sectors in which women are more likely to work as cashiers, salespersons, or food servers.

Two sectors combined employed 6 in 10 working students during the 2004/2005 academic year: retail and wholesale trade, and accommodation and food services. These sectors offer students flexibility to combine schooling with part-time employment. But they also often offer lower pay and less security.

Summer job market: Only moderate gains

Although gains were not strong, summer employment opportunities have nevertheless improved for both younger and older students.

As in the case of the school year, females have been the main beneficiaries of summer employment growth. Prior to the recession of the 1990s, male full-time students were more likely than female students to be employed during the summer months.

The recession of the early 1990s hit male students harder than female students and the recovery has been weaker for male students. As a result, female full-time students are now much more likely than their male counterparts to be employed in the summer.

The employment rate for females students hit 55.2% in the summer of 2005, up 7.1 percentage points from 1998. This compares with a gain of only 2.2 percentage points for male students, whose 2005 employment rate was 47.9%.

The diminishing employment role of the goods-producing sector has had an impact on summer employment among male full-time students. Male full-time students are currently more likely to be working in the services sectors while fewer work in agriculture, construction and manufacturing.

No gain in wages for students working during school year

Average hourly wages have not increased for students combining work and school over the last eight school years, although the trends have been different for the two age groups. After adjusting for inflation, hourly wages for students aged 15 to 17 actually declined 1.8% from 1997/1998, while they rose 2.1% for older students.

In the 2004/2005 academic year, students aged 18 to 24 earned an average of $9.60 an hour, compared to $7.82 an hour for those aged 15 to 17.

Hourly wages for younger students closely resemble minimum wage rates which vary by province, ranging from $6.00 to $8.00 per hour in 2005.

Students who have jobs during the school year are working longer than ever before. In 2004/2005, student employees spent on average 15.3 hours a week at their main job, compared to between 13 and 14 hours a week in the 1980s and 1990s.

During the summer of 2005, students aged 15 to 24 made an average of $246.84 a week, up 2% from 1998, adjusted for inflation. Because older students were better paid and worked longer hours, they earned more than younger students.

Older students earned $294.98 a week on average last summer, while younger students earned $157.37.

Alberta tops for jobs during school year, Prince Edward Island during summer

Booming Alberta led the nation in terms of employment rates among full-time students who combined work and school. About 44.3% of full-time students in Alberta were employed during the 2004/2005 school year, compared with only 23.0% in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Employment rates were above the national average in the Prairie provinces, Quebec and Ontario in 2004/2005. All provinces experienced employment rate increases among full-time students between 1997/1998 and 2004/2005, the largest occurring in Quebec and New Brunswick.

But during the summer months, Prince Edward Island topped all provincial labour markets. Last summer, two-thirds of the island's full-time students were employed (67.1%), largely due to the host of tourism and agricultural jobs available. The Prairie provinces, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick followed close behind.

In Canada's three largest provinces (Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia), employment rates for full-time students last summer were at or below the national average.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3701.

The study "Students in the labour market" is now available online in the April 2006 issue of Education Matters: Insights on Education, Learning and Training in Canada, Vol. 3, no. 1 (81-004-XIE, free). This issue also presents another feature article entitled "Tuition fee deregulation: Who pays?" From the Our products and services page, under Browse our Internet publications, choose Free, then Education, then Education Matters.

For more information, contact Client Services (1-800-307-3382 or 613-951-7608; fax: 613-951-9040;, Centre for Education Statistics.

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Date Modified: 2006-04-27 Important Notices