B.C. is producing lots of jobs, but too many of them are temporary

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says uncertainty, temp agencies create cycle of undermployment

Job hunting just isn’t what it used to be — temporary positions made up 40% of all jobs created in B.C. from 2009 to 2013, according to a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

And according to Precarious: Temporary Agency Work in British Columbia, the rate of growth of short-term positions is significantly outstripping that of permanent ones:

Chart showing growth rate of temporary and permanent positions in BC and Canada 2004–2013

The people taking those jobs are disproportionately young and female, and many are new immigrants. Most temp workers would prefer permanent employment, and the report emphasizes that their jobs are not secure:

[Temporary Agency Workers] often experience limited-duration employment with a high risk of termination. In Canada, the majority of temporary agency workers are employed from four to eight months (43.2 per cent), followed by nine to 12 months (24.7 per cent) and 13 to 24 months.

The CCPA’s findings echo widespread concern about the type of new jobs being created post-recession, and the disproportionate impact this new employment reality has on young people. But Peter Shawn Taylor says the rise of ‘precarious’ work is good for workers and for the economy:

Certainly the rise of temporary, part-time and contract employment has benefited employers by improving their ability to scale up or down quickly. But the trend marks an advantage for workers as well, who gain more control over their work-life relationships. And it has allowed the Canadian economy to adapt quickly to a devastating international financial crisis.

Still, the report suggests that sustained temp work can be a “trap” — it makes finding a steady job harder for those that want it by creating the impression that job seekers are damaged goods, a plight not unlike that of the long-term unemployed. Buy-out clauses requiring a payment to temp agencies if clients want to hire their workers full-time may also discourage permanent employment.

READ: Special Report: Canada’s Best Jobs »

For the first time since the recession, Canadian work hunters could be looking across the border with envy: the Labor Department’s job reports, released the same day as the CCPA’s findings, showed that the US economy added a phenomenal 288,000 jobs last month.

With the workforce shrinkingconcern about an impending skills gap and the general low esteem in which millennials seem to be held, the young and underemployed could do with the kind of encouragement the American job market just delivered.