If Canadian Unemployment Is So Low, Why All The Long Job Lines?

Canada’s labor market is just off record lows, but a quick drive and it may not seem that way. Statistics Canada (Stat Can) reported the unemployment rate was 5.5% in August, just off the record low. Yet viral videos are popping up with lines of hundreds of people looking for entry-level jobs. More and more people are asking why the data doesn’t match the anecdotes, and here’s why.

If you haven’t seen the videos we’re talking about—congrats, you’re better at resisting TikTok than most people. The videos are similar, documenting long lines for low wage, entry-level jobs. There’s one of hundreds of people lining up for entry level jobs at a grocery store in Brampton. There’s an epic 700-person line for hotel jobs in Kitchener-Waterloo. Heck, even getting a job at a McDonalds in Canada means facing a competition of hundreds.  

Canada supposedly has an unemployment rate similar to pre-pandemic. It’s just off record lows—yet it feels like we’re looking at a serious recession. The gap between the data and reality even has well-respected analysts raising brows.  

Let’s look at a few of the factors at play here. 

A Booming Population Means An Unemployment Boom

The most obvious factor here is population growth. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.5% in August, a level we felt was pretty good back in 2019. However, it’ll look very different due to the population growth. 

No change with population growth means a consistent rate of growth for those with and without jobs. About 6,000 jobs were lost and the labor force added 13,300 more people. That’s a net increase of 19,300 people looking for a job. Not enough to change the rate, but most of the losses were immigrants. Since immigrants concentrate in a few regions, the lack of distribution emphasizes the losses. That’s why most of the videos are in Southern Ontario and the Lower Mainland. 

Low Income International Students Are Being Used To Patch Canada’s Low Wage Labor Gap

Many of the people in these lines are international students, looking for a job to help with bills. Canadian post-secondary isn’t cheap, but the cost is exorbitant for international students. First year Applied Sciences tuition at UBC is $58k for those on a study permit vs $7k for domestic students. First year at U of T is $58k for international students vs $6k domestic tuition. A lot of money is required, leading many to think these students have deep pockets.  

However, the composition of international students is changing very quickly these days. China has the second most millionaire households in the world. It also used to be the largest source of study permit holders in Canada, many from wealthy households. That changed in 2018, with rising tensions between the country. Canada tried to mitigate losses by targeting growth in lower income, developing countries.  

India is now the largest study permit source. A Vancouver policy analyst found the primary target is the working poor, “with little knowledge of Canada.” Preying on desperation, and often using outright lies, recruiters convince families to bet the farm on sending their students abroad. Literally sometimes, convincing them to borrow against their assets with high-interest loans. 

Even so, these students don’t have a lot of cash, right? Canada lifted the limit to 20-hours of on-campus work for those on study permits. Lucky students. Canada also presented the move as a solution to its low-wage “labor shortage.”

Just to reiterate, Canada searched the world for disadvantaged families. Promised opportunities that don’t exist. Got them to work low wage jobs until the debt is repaid, knowing that living costs would consume most of their wages. Opting out often means a catastrophic loss for the person’s family. It sounds familiar, but I just can’t place where I’ve heard this before… 

Anyway, that’s why these long lines have a large population of international students. It’s unclear how Statistics Canada’s labor methodology can factor this in. Sampling this population is difficult, and most likely undercounted. Canadians are more unemployed than you think(tm).

Seasonal Adjustments That Aren’t So Seasonal

Speaking of methodology, Statistics Canada has another impossible task—seasonal adjustments. August’s 5.5% unemployment rate is seasonally adjusted, but what are these adjustments? They’re designed to limit the influence of predictable variations due to the time of year.

Unfortunately, post-recession economies aren’t predictable. That’s led prominent economists to warn that over-adjustments will be made, making economies look stronger than reality. It won’t be clear until later, a problem that also occurred after the Great Recession. 

Canada’s unadjusted unemployment rate came in at 6.3% in August, climbing for the past two months. Unadjusted data shows 181k more unemployed people than the seasonally adjusted data. It may be hard to appreciate how big this number is, so let’s try an exercise. 

Imagine you have a list of every unemployed person, and it’s thought to be comprehensive. You ask all of them to line up, and find out that roughly 1 in 8 people are missing from the list. It’s a population equal to half the size of Halifax. It’s a lot more people than you were expecting, even if the list says it’s correct. 

Now scale that population every month. Then add record growth for international students trying to make ends meet. Are you still surprised the data doesn’t reflect reality?

30 Comments

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  • Mark Bayly 10 months ago

    Importing another million Uber drivers every year might not turn Canada into an economic powerhouse.

    • Vafanculo 10 months ago

      Careful this kind of comment gets removed quickly here

    • Prairieboy43 10 months ago

      I’ll still drive my Diesel 4×4 truck. I don’t trust any foreign born Uber driver in my area (especially winter time).

    • GERALD SILVA 10 months ago

      You are right ON

    • Fraser 10 months ago

      agree….immigration needs to be stopped right now

  • robert 10 months ago

    it doesn’t make sense because the figures are a lie. the principle of
    bad input = bad output is proven by all government statistics every day as they have no intention of giving the public the truth. why would they do that you ask? because the truth would show how corrupt things really are.

    • Jon 10 months ago

      Facts

    • Yokleu 10 months ago

      Becous a lot people aren’t Canadian citizen so not on the unemployment statistics ! They coming here as students ,few years ago the law changed as a student visa you can working And after school you can stay find any job work for 2year after that you can change to immigrant vise ! Just a short cut for immigration!

    • Fraser 10 months ago

      bingo….all lies, every day….and they all get paid to do so….poor Canada….what a mess

  • Hate Free Canada 10 months ago

    Stats Canada – GIGO > Garbage In Garbage Out.
    Thousand of fake jobs are created for LMIA so that they can sell them to potential immigrants overseas. This scam has been going on for a while. How come 2 person trucking company needs IT manager ?

  • Dale Ritch 10 months ago

    Canada’s immigration policies are designed to drive up rents so that condo production can once again be profitable. Unfortunately, condo pre-sales have crashed in southern Ontario and there will soon be massive layoffs in the construction industry.

  • Tims 10 months ago

    Yeah, and then guess who pays for their welfare? Actual Canadians.

    • Omar 10 months ago

      international students don’t get welfare, so not sure what the point is. They get 18 months after their visa, and almost all are sent back. Only like 2k permanent residents had a Canadian education last year.

  • Timmy 10 months ago

    Yeah, and guess who pays for their welfare? Actual Canadians.

    • Itchy Bear 10 months ago

      Didn’t you read the article? They’re here as indentured servants – Canada is a burgeoning Dubai…

      It’s already a horribly racist situation… why do you need to heep more racism based on imaginary problems on top of that?

      Foreign students are not eligible for welfare.

      You are a horribly excuse for a human being.

      • AmbiVasu 10 months ago

        But in Dubai they don’t pay income tax. Whatever they earn is theirs to keep plus cost of living is almost half of what it is in Canada

  • Scott 10 months ago

    1 in 48 = 791,667 students
    223 universities
    213 colleges
    Average university tuition: 36,100.00
    Average college tuition= 15,000.00
    400k x 36.1k = 14.4 billion
    391k x 15k= 5.86 billion
    15k/yr. Living expenses x 791,667= 11.875 billion
    Totaling: 32 billion dollars.

    No wonder we don’t need to sell our natural resources anymore…

    • Terrance Yu 10 months ago

      oof. I know it’s napkin math, but anywhere close to that is just mind blowing.

    • Wex 10 months ago

      And what about the unaccredited colleges? Most international students study in these institutions that provide a fake degree. These students don’t want to actually graduate and if they do they hope to get into an actual Canadian school that’s accredited.

      So by your calculations let’s triple by 3. The Canadian economy is $2.6 trillion cad. Less than 4% of GDP. It isn’t worth it. Tax all schools that admit foreign students.

  • Wex 10 months ago

    I went to college to avoid working retail. I spent a year finding work or an internship, over 1000 applications. What’s the point of tertiary education if there aren’t any positions available?

    I’ve also caught a lot of companies faking job postings to give their HR departments something to do. The unemployment rate doesn’t include discourage people that quit looking for a job. In reality the unemployment rate is around 20%.

  • RMG 10 months ago

    The tuition that international students pay is a modern head tax. They don’t attend class because they have to work full time to pay their tuition and rent.

  • Arie Meijer 10 months ago

    Great to see that Canada’s policy makers have led this country’s main issues come to the affordability of food and shelter! Criminal!

  • Ray 10 months ago

    The half wits at CBC answer with because there’s so many jobs to fill that’s why the lineups.

  • Bat 10 months ago

    Young Canadians can’t get a chance to gain work experience if there are millions of foreign students taking away those jobs, and waiting in long lines.

    I’m wondering if those HS kids who commented that “the bus smells like doo doo” when exiting was actually in the right. The bus was packed with international students going to work at the warehouse. There is no college in the area.

    • Jon 10 months ago

      Immigration is a boon when implemented correctly. The Liberal government has incorrectly applied it as a bandaid solution and kicked real problems further down the line.

      The issue isn’t with new immigrants, it’s with Trudeau and his incompetent caucus.

  • Jack 10 months ago

    Or maybe the unemployment office is understaffed?

    • Omar 10 months ago

      The point of his article is the unemployment rate should be about double the reported number, but I guess it was too subtle for some.

  • Mukhtiyar Ullah 10 months ago

    Here is a golden chance for international candidate even for me also I am eager for this job

  • Sam 10 months ago

    I am was an international student in Canada at Dalhousie University who came for a good experience. But man, I was expecting too much. I wasn’t impressed with Canada as a country cause there isn’t much going on here except the fact that the government and some people in particular just start blaming international students who come here. International students aren’t the problem, Canada is the problem. You guys need to get your shit straight. If you can’t handle so many students just don’t call them. You are doing them and yourselves a favour. But trust me, international students aren’t the problem, there isn’t anything special about Canada. No businesses. No growth. Poor investment by government. Poor Healthcare. International students aren’t to blame for all this! F**k you Canada! F**k off! I don’t give a f**k! Get the F**k out of here. Yeeewahh I don’t care! I’m not afraid you Motherf**ker

  • NR 10 months ago

    I am a seasoned technical person. Unemployed for 5 months now. Every place I apply already have over 250 applicants. I have gone thru numerous “final” interviews. Mostly there is no communication afterwards even when promised to reach out with a decision within 2 weeks. Government jobs are impossible. It doesn’t matter what you know. What matters is who you know .

    Pathetic.

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