Windsor’s first job report for the new year has once again placed the region in a familiar spot: the highest unemployment rate for Canada’s largest cities.
The December report from Statistics Canada shows 8.1 per cent of people 15 or older who are looking for work, or 16,100 people, are unemployed.
Unemployment is up by 900 people — half a percentage point — compared to the previous month.
“To the eye, that doesn’t really look like a good thing,” said Corey Shenken, special projects lead at Workforce Windsor Essex, a non-profit group that helps people find careers and advises employers on the labour market.
“The good news is that our population grew by 1,000 people in the same month and our total employment numbers only decreased by 200 jobs,” said Shenken.
He said that shows Windsor continues to be an attractive place for people to settle and isn’t a case of employers cutting jobs.
“A lot of companies are posting jobs. It’s just when these people arrive in the region, a lot of them are moving here without jobs lined up.”
Cyclical auto industry continues to impact numbers
At the core of the high unemployment rate is the industry often described as the economic heartbeat of Windsor-Essex: its auto industry.
“Our employment is more heavily tied to our manufacturing sector, which has been more susceptible to fluctuations,” said Shenken.
The December numbers are based on the average unemployment rate for the previous three months, which includes a period where the Windsor Assembly Plant was down for retooling.
That temporarily laid off 3,500 people who collected employment insurance while also receiving a union-negotiated wage top-up paid by the employer, bringing their earnings on layoff to 70 per cent of their working wage.
The layoffs have a ripple effect that puts people temporarily out of work at feeder plants in the area.
That retooling is now finished, and Shenken said that should stabilize future job numbers.
Thousands join growing professional sector
One of the industries seeing impressive growth in Windsor, according to Shenken, is the professional, scientific and technical services sector. He said it grew by 65 per cent last year by adding 5,300 jobs.
“The tech industry is a good indicator of economic growth and a move toward these future jobs,” said Shenken.
Those future jobs are the ones promised as part of the electric vehicle (EV) battery plant, which is expected to begin production later this year and reach full production in 2024.
That will bring 2,500 jobs to the area, with promises of spinoff plants opening in the area and attracting more jobs to Windsor-Essex.
“We’re really hoping that picks up again in 2024 as more of these investments become fully operational,” said Shenken.