Ontario job situation still in need of a helping hand

Job statistics have certainly been making the headlines this week.

On Tuesday, Canada’s Auditor General published a report warning that Statistics Canada’s job vacancy data still leaves many people in the dark about the type of skills in demand and the regions with job vacancies present.

On Friday morning, the Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey made headlines as economists pointed out the data collected through the survey could be more robust than it currently is.

Though the Labour Force Survey could be better, it does tell us something valuable about Ontario’s labour market this month: the province’s job situation is still in need of a helping hand.

Ontario created 17,600 net new jobs in the month of April; this includes an increase of 25,800 full-time jobs and a loss of more than 8,000 part-time jobs.

These employment gains were attained almost solely by women. Female employment grew by 26,000 during the month of April – 65% of them going to women aged 15-24 – while male employment actually declined by 8,000 jobs.

Even in the face of employment gains, the unemployment rate increased slightly, to 7.4%, as more people joined the labour force and began looking for work. That’s a sign that discouraged workers are rejoining the labour force after putting their job search on hiatus.

With an unemployment rate still one percentage point higher than the pre-recession level, these numbers show that competition for existing jobs continues to be fierce in Ontario.

Case in point: youth unemployment sits at 15.4%, a slight drop from March but still more than double the provincial average.

A peek at large metropolitan areas across the province reveals that Peterborough once again has the highest unemployment rate in the province (it did so last month too). At 11.6%, it’s also the highest unemployment rate among all cities across the country. In Ontario, Windsor and St. Catharines share second spot for unemployment – each with an unemployment rate of 9.3%.

The current election period promises even more headlines on the job front – but addressing the systemic shift that’s been underway in Ontario’s labour market continues to take a sideline to wedge issue politics.

For his part, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak promised today to kill 100,000 public sector jobs; jobs that more often than not offer decent pay and the possibility of a middle class lifestyle.  The loss of these jobs in regions that are already struggling with low to no job growth would just be one more blow to the local economy.

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne has promoted her plan to increase jobs in Ontario through targeted investment and infrastructure development to attract high quality jobs to Ontario.

And NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has been talking about rewarding employers who hire with tax credits.

Whatever the promise, this month’s numbers show that Ontario is in need of a well developed, long-term jobs strategy to promote good jobs in Ontario. With frequent news of plant closures in the province, a bigger vision for job protection and job creation is in order.

So far, none of the three main political parties has found the sweet spot on this issue.

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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