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Latest Job Stats Show Ontario on Unsteady Ground

June 6, 2014

2-minute read

New Statistics Canada jobs data shows that much of Ontario remains on the same unsteady ground it was on a year ago.

Communities and regions suffering from continually high joblessness and underemployment remain pretty much stuck in that pattern; while the regions that are doing well – such as Kitchener-Waterloo – continue to perform well.

Overall, Ontario’s labour market saw the creation of 14,800 net new jobs last month. This small change masks a loss of 30,000 full-time jobs and a gain of 45,000 part-time jobs.

Much of the big picture data, however, masks a continuing shift in Ontario’s labour market.

Here’s what a closer look at the numbers reveals.

Fewer full-time jobs, more part-time jobs

Since May 2013, public sector employment has shrunk by 3% and the private sector has barely picked up the slack, increasing by 2.2% during the same time period. But much of the employment that was created is part-time. In fact, part-time employment grew by 4.5% over the past year while full-time employment actually shrunk.

As the number of part-time jobs continues to increase, it’s not surprising that the involuntary part-time rate has increased as well – from 33% in May 2013 to 36% last month. It’s one indicator that underemployment is prevalent and growing in our labour market.

Ontario unemployment middle of the pack

The unemployment rate ticked down 0.1 percentage point to 7.3% in May, putting Ontario right in the middle of the pack across the country. Saskatchewan currently has the lowest unemployment rate at 3.7% and Newfoundland the highest at 12.7%.

The percent of the labour force considered to be unemployed long-term ticked down as well from 23.6% in May of 2013 to 21.3% last month. It’s likely that some of this decrease came as the result of individuals giving up on finding work as employment for the prime working age population decreased by 10,000 individuals.

Regions stuck in holding pattern

As I have discussed before, Ontario’s labour market varies by economic region. Each region faces a different set of challenges as we move through this period of recovery.

Kingston-Pembroke continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the province at 11.1%. Followed by Windsor-Sarnia at 8.4%.

True to form, Kitchener-Waterloo and Barrie continue to have the highest employment rate in the province at 65% though that is a slight decrease over May 2013.

London has about 800 fewer jobs than in May of last year and continues to shed jobs in the goods-producing sector faster than it creates jobs in the services-producing sector.

Northwest Ontario lost a full 3% of the jobs present in May of 2013. Northeast Ontario was not far behind losing 2.5% of all jobs present in May of last year.

A more focused look at large metropolitan areas reveals that Windsor is now home to the second highest unemployment rate in the country at 8.9%. Only St. John’s, Newfoundland is higher at 9%.

Peterborough, which had been home to the highest unemployment rate in the country, now sits in third place at 8.6%. The city also has the lowest employment and participation rates of any major city in Canada.

This is the reality that the next Ontario government will inherit. The numbers show that public sector jobs are already on the decline while part-time private sector jobs are on the rise. They show that getting real about good jobs, particularly in the North, in London and in Kingston-Pembroke, will be a necessary component of the next Premier’s agenda.

Government is going to need a jobs strategy that is provincial in scope, but one that also focuses on the diverse issues faced at the regional level. Regional jobs roundtables that bring together all stakeholders – including workers, employers, academics, government and people across the age spectrum – to develop proactive solutions to labour market woes will be key to economic renewal and recovery across the province.

And to whomever the next Premier may be, I say – Rule #1: don’t make the situation worse.

Kaylie Tiessen is an economist with the Ontario Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA Ontario). Follow her on Twitter @KaylieTiessen

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