As is well known, the youth unemployment rate remains high, and well above average. It stood at 14.1 per cent in November or more than double the unemployment rate of 6.3 per cent for persons aged 25 to 54, and 6.2 per cent for those aged 55 and over.

What is a little bit more surprising is that the youth unemployment rate, while down from the recession peak of over 15 per cent, has risen over the past year — up by 0.5 percentage points — while it has fallen — by 0.3 per cent percentage points — for those aged 25 and over.

Young people were hard hit by the recession, and have been mainly sitting on the sidelines during the recovery.

In fact, youth now make up almost one in three (29.1 per cent) of Canada’s 1.4 million unemployed, but account for only one in seven (14.2 per cent) of Canada’s employed work force.

What is even more striking than high youth unemployment is the very large proportion of young people who have given up looking for work, and are, therefore, not counted as unemployed.

Between November 2008, just after the recession began, and November 2011, the youth unemployment rate rose from 11.9 per cent to 13.5 per cent. Meanwhile the participation rate of young workers fell quite dramatically, from 65.5 per cent to 61.7 per cent. (These data from CANSIM Table 282-0001 are not seasonally adjusted.)

The decline in the youth participation rate has been somewhat more marked among men (66.5 per cent to 61.7 per cent) than among women (64.5 per cent to 61.6 per cent.)

As a result of rising unemployment and more young workers dropping out of the labour force, the employment rate for youth — that is, the proportion holding a job, any job — fell from 57.7 per cent in November, 2008 to just 53.4 per cent in November, 2011. (The fall was from 57.5 per cent to 52.4 per cent for men, and from 57.9 per cent to 54.4 per cent for women.)

And, for those young people still working, the proportion in part-time jobs has risen from 49.6 per cent to 50.8 per cent.

It is interesting that the fall in the employment rate for youth has been heavily concentrated among students. Between November 2008 and November 2011, the employment rate of young people who were students (full or part time) fell from 44.4 per cent to 39.2 per cent, much more than for non students whose employment rate slipped from 77.9 per cent to 77.2 per cent. No doubt that translates into much increased levels of student debt.

Canada does not have the sky-high youth unemployment rates of some European countries. But young people are the major victims of Canada’s recession and tepid (perhaps now stalled) recovery. Many young people are still in school, but most still want and need part-time and seasonal jobs, and those leaving the educational system definitely want and need full-time decent jobs related to their field of study.

The employment situation of young people should be a much more prominent part of the discussion over our economic and labour market policies.

This article was first posted on The Progressive Economics Forum.