A new report says women’s historically high numbers in the country’s labour force remain below where they might have been if COVID-19 had never occurred.
The report from the Labour Market Information Council says female employment is almost one per cent lower than where it could have been if the global pandemic hadn’t altered the trajectory of the economy.
For men, employment levels are about 0.5 per cent below what they may have been had the labour market grown along its historical average over the preceding decade.
The report points to these figures, among others, to suggest the jobs rebound for women may be slightly weaker than the headline numbers suggest.
February’s jobs market report from Statistics Canada showed that female employment was up about 178,000 jobs, or two per cent above levels recorded in February 2020.
For men, the jobs figure was slightly higher at 192,000, or about 1.9 per cent above pre-pandemic levels recorded in the same month two years earlier.
Within those figures are areas of concern that the report lays out.
Gains are concentrated among middle- and high-income occupations, with a slower increase seen in lower-paying jobs.
Behnoush Amery, a senior economist with the council, said some may have moved from largely part-time work to full-time employment and better pay, but many low-wage women workers could have left the labour force altogether.
The recovery for young workers has been slower than for those in the core working age of 25 to 54, Amery said. That could mean a decline in long-term earnings and opportunities if young female workers miss out on chances to gain job experience and develop their skills.
The jobs report also showed that the share of core-age women with a job reached an all-time high last month, while for men the rate hit its highest level since 1989.
Participation rates were similarly high. However, Amery said the participation rate for mothers still lags fathers and that points to long-running systemic issues and cultural expectations around child-care responsibilities.