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April 15, 2021

Will the recession devour summer employment, too?

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

While I was in school, I had no shortage of lame summer jobs.

When I wasn’t hawking knockoff designer sunglasses (Dolchay and Kabanna!) or weighing dump trucks in the scalehouse of some remote gravel pit, you could find me cooped-up in a searing-hot concession booth on the beach in Grand Bend, a tiny Ontario beach community on the southeast shore of Lake Huron.

And this wasn’t one of those, “Oh, cool, you’re by the water all day, dude!” jobs; this place was near the beach in proximity only. All I could do was stare at people having fun through my tiny service window, which offered but a glimpse of the unbridled joy happening all around. This would be like ordering a sumptuous prime rib at a five-star restaurant, only to have the waiter line your throat with Saran wrap before you could eat it. So close to what you want, yet so far away.

But, at least I was working, and it would appear that’s more than many can say today.

As the first summer of Canada’s meltdown looms, it seems few students were prepared for the startling lack of seasonal employment opportunities, an almost unprecedented trend forcing thousands of youths to join in on the recessionary fun.

In Ontario, for example, regular workers aged 15-24 saw their unemployment rate spike to 17.2% last month, up from 13.2% in March, 2008, and now double the provincial adult unemployment rate.

According to Statistics Canada, that means 192,000 local youths – including many students – are now out of work.

Yet it’s not just Ontario. Since October, young people have lost 122,000 jobs across the country and, in the U.S., things are even worse.

During what the Wall Street Journal calls “the darkest summer-job market since the government began collecting data after World War II,” employment among 16-to-19-year-olds has sunk to about 31%, the media outlet says.

Sure, federal governments of the U.S. and Canada are pitching in with stimulus money to create future work, but what will this mean now, for kids with no jobs and about the same amount of prospects?

For one, it’s forcing them to get more creative. Students are apparently trying to create their own work, offering entrepreneurial services like Spanish lessons or web design services as a way to make a buck.

But, let’s measure things in reality. The chances of this generation’s lemonade stand producing any level of discernable income are undeniably low, leaving more and more without work and without opportunity.

Such news may not appear as demoralizing as the latest neighbourhood store closure or round of manufacturing layoffs, but when you consider how many homes depend on a few extra months of summer revenue to make ends meet, the idea takes on a familiar quality of despair.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...