Niagara added jobs again in September, but spectre of COVID looms

Home COVID-19Niagara added jobs again in September, but spectre of COVID looms
(Photo credit: Retrieved from original article.)

Article By: Gord Howard
St. Catharines Standard
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Niagara’s unemployment rate fell by more than two per cent and 5,900 residents previously without work found jobs in September.

“On the surface, it’s all good news,” said Adam Durrant, operations and research manager for the Niagara Workforce Planning Board.

But, he added, “the story of the pandemic is what’s going on under the hood.”

That persistent rumble ‘under the hood’ continues to be COVID-19 and its unpredictable impact on Niagara’s economy, which has continued to improve since the region moved into Stage 3 of reopening in mid-July.

For most of the past month, though, Niagara’s COVID-19 case count has steadily trended upward.

And on Friday, the provincial government clamped down on three COVID hotspots — Toronto, Peel and Ottawa — imposing a 28-day ban on indoor dining, closing gyms and theatres, and lowering gathering limits.

Friday’s data, contained in Statistics Canada’s monthly employment report, makes Durrant cautiously optimistic “but there are factors at play” — like what’s happening in Toronto, as well as the weather and whether Niagara can control the spread of the coronavirus.

“Compared to this time last year, though, we still have 11,300 people out of work that were working last year,” he said.

The StatsCan report showed Niagara’s unemployment rate for September was 8.8 per cent, compared to 11.3 per cent in August (and 12.6 per cent back in May, but just 5.7 per cent in September 2019).

Of the 5,900 jobs Niagara added, nearly all were in the service sector, including 2,800 people who found new work in food and accommodations and another 1,000 in information, culture and recreation.

The unemployment rate among young workers was a glaring 25.5 per cent, but better at least than the 28.9 per cent recorded in August.

A bright spot, Durrant said, is that “job demand in Niagara has generally returned to close to pre-pandemic levels.

“We’re seeing pre-pandemic levels of job demand (by employers), but what we’re seeing is often twice as many unemployed people trying to compete for those jobs.”

The annual Christmas hiring generally starts in November and runs through January, Durrant said. But with the uncertainty of COVID, “what’s going to happen this year is really anybody’s guess at this point.”

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