Manufacturing drives down Windsor's unemployment rate

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Windsor Star/Sarah Sacheli

When it comes to the Windsor region’s plummeting unemployment rates, manufacturing is driving the bus.

The Windsor area’s jobless rate dropped to 6.4 per cent in April, down from seven per cent in March, according to figures released by Statistics Canada Friday. The decline has been steady and consistent: 9.3 per cent in January, 7.7 per cent in February.

In April 2015, Windsor was Canada’s unemployment capital, with a jobless rate of 11.4 per cent. Now, 11 other Canadian cities have worse employment rates than ours, and we’ve bested the national unemployment rate which stood at 7.1 per cent in April.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said much of the job growth began with FCA Canada, which created 1,200 new jobs in the city in the last year. Each one of those positions is expected to create nine spin-off jobs.

“That’s what we’re waiting for,” Dilkens said. “This doesn’t mean that we stop. This means we keep going and keep diversifying.”

Dilkens said the city is all too familiar with the depths of unemployment to sit back and ride the rising tide. “We’re a community of peaks and valleys. We need to smooth those valleys out.”

Vincent Ferrao, a labour market analyst with Statistics Canada, said employment rates are one of the indicators of a region’s economic health.

“Over the last few months, we’ve seen a falling unemployment rate,” he said. “Correspondingly, there has been employment growth.”

Ferrao said 9,000 more people have found jobs since 2016 began.

“What’s been driving this? Manufacturing has been growing. That has been the driving force for the area.”

Last month, 42,000 people were employed in manufacturing jobs. A year ago, in April 2015, there were 27,000 manufacturing jobs.

There has been little growth in other job sectors, Ferrao said. In fact, in the retail sector, the job market has tightened, with 19,000 people employed in April 2016 compared to 21,000 in April 2015.

The growth in the manufacturing sector could buoy the rest of the local economy in the coming months, Ferrao said. “Hopefully, it will translate into gains into other industries like the service sector.”

The youth unemployment rate has seen a similar decline to the overall jobless rate. In April 2016, 12.3 per cent of people aged 15 to 24 were without work. A year ago, in April 2015, that figure was 17 per cent.

Canada-wide in April, the jobless rate for youth was 13.1 per cent.

Dilkens said that comes as no surprise. “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

Ferrao said the youth unemployment figures are not particularly alarming. “Typically, theirs is an unemployment rate that is twice that of the adult population.” When only the population aged 25 and older are measured, Windsor’s unemployment rate was 5.5 per cent.

The Unemployed Help Centre in recent months has begun to get calls from manufacturing plants looking for employees. These are good, full-time jobs, said June Muir, chief executive officer. One auto parts assembly plant lost 60 employees to FCA. Another lost many of its machine operators.

Andrea Ducharme, job developer at the agency, said there is an abundance of seasonal work right now in all sectors. “There is a shortage of workers,” she said. “Employers are willing to take on people with no skills.”

Some of the available jobs pay minimum wage, but a few pay as much as $25 per hour.

“The average is about $15,” Muir said. “That’s a living wage.”

Ducharme said she expects the jobless rates to continue to decline over the summer months, then spike a bit again in the fall.

Muir said, while the falling jobless rates are “absolutely good news,” it doesn’t mean Windsor’s employment woes are over. “We still have a lot of people coming through our doors.”