Article By: Gord Howard
St. Catharines Standard
Read original at: https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/business/2020/09/04/niagara-continues-to-add-jobs-during-covid-19-recovery-but-long-term-outlook-remains-uncertain.html
Another 9,200 people in Niagara found employment in August. That’s on top of the 8,000 who were hired back in July.
“In any other year I would be throwing confetti at numbers like that,” said Adam Durrant, operations and research manager for Niagara Workforce Planning Board.
Instead, he uses the words “cautious optimism” to describe the latest employment survey by Statistics Canada, released Friday.
Despite a lot of positives – the region’s unemployment rate went down, youth employment went up a bit and women started catching up with men in hiring – “they are only moving us back to gaining that which was lost” this year due to COVID-19.
“It’s a positive short-term trend among long-term data that is still quite challenging,” Durrant said.
Canada’s national unemployment rate dropped slightly last month to 10.2 per cent. Niagara’s also went down, to 11.3 per cent from 12.3 last month.
That puts the region close to communities like Kitchener-Waterloo, with 10.7 per cent, and Windsor at 11.3 per cent.
He’s cautious because chances of Niagara’s economy continuing an upward trend hinges on things like a good shoulder season for the tourism industry, warm weather, and continuing to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
“Those are big questions that we don’t have answers to,” he said.
And there are still 16,000 people in Niagara who have not regained their employment since COVID-19 hit.
Durrant said he is concerned by the 28.9 per cent youth unemployment rate, which hurts their ability to save for future schooling, or for graduates means they can’t start their careers.
Last August, the rate across Niagara was 10.4 per cent.
“The data reflect that youth are trying to find work … but right now the jobs are just not forthcoming for them.”
The study showed about three-quarters of the jobs added in Niagara were fulltime.
The goods producing sector, including manufacturing, hired 4,200 more and employed 45,300 people last month. That’s nearly 5,000 more people than in August 2019.
The services sector, including tourism and retail, was hardest-hit when COVID-19 forced closure of much of Niagara’s economy this spring.
In August it added 5,000 employees to a total of 140,600, but that’s still nearly 21,000 shy of where it was in August 2019.
Accommodation and food services, accounting for all the hotels, restaurants and many tourist-attractions, added only 400 jobs in August to a total of 15,200. In August 2019 it employed 26,100.
“It is important to note we are trending in the right direction toward pre-pandemic numbers. I don’t want to be the guy who looks for a cloud on a sunny day,” said Durrant.
“It’s just a question of, can we keep this momentum going.”
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