Unemployment rises to 5.6% in Stratford-Bruce Peninsula region

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The Stratford-Bruce Peninsula region continues to have the lowest unemployment rate in the province but the number of people without a job is climbing.

The March unemployment rate for the region was 5.6%, Statistics Canada reported Friday.

That was well below the 7.7% for Ontario.

But the jobless rate in Stratford-Bruce Peninsula jumped from 5.2% in February to 5.6% in March and has gone up each of the last four months. It stood at 4.6% in November and December.

The total number of people out of work in the region in March was 8,500, up 600 from February.

Asked if there is anything to suggest unemployment is creeping up in Stratford and area, Deb Hotchkiss of Partners in Employment said: “Absolutely not. Absolutely the opposite.”

“We’re having a challenge filling some of the jobs that employers are bringing us. There’s just not as many people looking for work as there once was, for sure,” said Hotchkiss, managing director of the not-for-profit employment support agency.

There were 58 jobs advertised on Stratford’s jobs bank Friday.

“A lot of the manufacturers are quite anxious to hire people,” Hotchkiss said.

Stratford economic development officer Randy Mattice said he too has seen no evidence of unemployment on the rise here.

“In terms of what’s happening in the community I think we’re in a strong position … 5.6% to me is a good unemployment rate,” he said.

Many economists consider 5% unemployment to be full employment.

“So 5.6% shows we’ve got a nice pool of potential workers for industry that’s looking for worker and also new industry that’s coming in – Canavac and TG Minto,” he said.

Social services director Bill Tigert said the local Ontario Works caseload has risen by about 25 cases since January, to about 670.

“So we’re still below our historic highs that we hit right after the 2008 recession, which had us in the 725-plus range,” he said.

It can take a laid-off worker as long as a year and a half before social assistance kicks in after severance and unemployment benefits run out, he said.

Even though the Stratford-Bruce Peninsula unemployment rate rose in March, so did the number of people working. There were 2,100 more people with full-time jobs, pushing the total to 113,700 in March.

The number of people not participating in the labour force fell by 2,000.

The Stratford-Bruce Peninsula economic region covers Perth, Huron, Bruce and Grey counties and is home to more than 300,000 residents. The grouping mirrors the one used by Statistics Canada.

Local officials have long knocked the unemployment figure because the geographic area is so large and the population relatively small. Jobs in and out of the Bruce Power nuclear plant near Kincardine, for example, can skew the jobless figure.

In Ontario, employment edged down by 17,000 in March, following an increase of 35,000 the month before. The unemployment rate held steady at 7.7%, a result of fewer people participating in the labour force. Year-over-year employment growth in the province was 0.8%, StatsCan said.

Canada's unemployment rate climbed 0.2 percentage points to 7.2% as 55,000 jobs were lost across the country.

Nearby London’s unemployment rate jumped to 9.6%, up from 9.1% in February and 8.5% in January. It was the second highest of 25 Census Metropolitan Areas across Canada, behind Peterborough with 10.2%.

The jobs picture improved in Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo, where the unemployment rate dipped to 7.2% from 7.5%.



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