Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Employment boom leaving older workers behind

The economy in NL is booming.  The unemployment rate is lower than it has been in decades, more people are joining the labour force, and wages are rising.  But not everyone is benefiting from the boom. 

The following chart shows unemployment rate by age group in the province.

The unemployment rate has fallen about 4% since 2004 for those 15 to 24 and for those 25 to 55, but has remained the same for those 55 to 64.  Now consider wages.

We see that wages for workers over 55 have fallen behind those of of workers 25 to 54, and have grown more slowly than those for workers 15 to 24.  If we adjust for inflation, median wages for older workers has not grown at all since 2004, while wages for younger workers have grown by about 30%.

I'm not sure why this is happening.  This divergence between older workers and younger workers does not hold Canada-wide, so the explanation must be local.  My guess is that it has something to do with the vast urban-rural divide and migration.  Young people are the most likely to move to where the job opportunities are, so they are the ones reaping the benefits of the booming economy in the St. John's area, while older workers remain behind in rural communities with limited job opportunities.

Whatever the explanation, the fact that older workers have seen basically no job market benefits from the oil boom is astonishing.

Sources:  Statistics Canada CANSIM 282-0086 and 282-0069

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