Young women stayed away from low-paid retail work in elevated numbers in November, the latest Canadian jobs data shows, leaving a growing number of vacancies unfilled heading into the busy holiday shopping season.
Some 45,000 fewer young women aged 15 to 24 were employed in the retail trade in November compared to a year earlier, an 11.7 per cent reduction almost entirely due to losses in August and September, Statistics Canada said in its November employment report.
The drop in hiring despite a shortage of workers is an echo of other female-dominated service industries, where wages have been slower to move higher in reaction to 2022’s spike in inflation.
“Between stagnant wages and sector-wide retention issues, young women have turned away from brick-and-mortar retail employment,” said Akosua Alagaratnam, the executive director of the youth employment network First Work.
The overall employment rate for young women was down 2.5 percentage points at 57.8 per cent in November, StatCan said.
Across the workforce, a net of 10,000 more jobs were created in November after a jump of 108,000 in October, with gains in finance, insurance, real estate, and manufacturing, among others, and losses in construction and the wholesale and retail sectors.
Alagaratnam said retailers, who are reporting a higher-than-usual volume of job vacancies, need to put more effort into retaining workers.
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Wages for women in retail are typically lower than those of their male counterparts, with November’s overall average hourly wage of $21.99 consisting of women getting paid $20.73 and men getting $23.50.
While $21.99 an hour is a solid 5.4 per cent more than retail workers were getting paid a year ago, it is still below the 5.6 per cent average across all industries (which is higher, too, at $32.11).
Meanwhile, inflation, or the rate at which the price of food, gasoline and other living costs go up, was at 6.9 per cent in October.
“Wage growth has accelerated substantially but is still running behind inflation,” RBC Economics wrote in a note on the job numbers, adding that a faster rise in the wages of temporary employees indicated a ramping up of holiday season hiring.
Yet as recently as September, payroll employment in clothing and clothing accessories stores was 13.7 per cent below its pre-pandemic level. Retail work that does not involve a store (including jobs in electronic shopping), meanwhile, increased by 33 per cent.
Working parents with a child under six were much more likely to take time off to care for them last month, StatCan said, with 3.5 per cent doing so compared to an average of 2.2 per cent in the same month from 2017 to 2019.
Morgan Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer