The Windsor area no longer holds the crown for having the highest unemployment rate in Canada after Statistics Canada reported the local jobless figure fell by nearly a quarter between March and April.
The local census metropolitan area (CMA), which includes Windsor, Tecumseh, Lakeshore, LaSalle and Amherstburg, dipped from a rate of 8.3 per cent in March to 6.4 per cent, a drop of 1.9 percentage points. The local jobless rate saw the largest decline (23 per cent) among Canada’s 34 CMAs.
The national unemployment rate dropped .1 percentage to a record low 5.2 per cent while the Ontario rate crept up by .1 percentage to 5.4 per cent.
“A nearly two (percentage) drop is a huge shift in statistics that normally see monthly changes that are much smaller percentages,” said Workforce WindsorEssex CEO Justin Falconer.
“These numbers are part of a three-month rolling average, so there’s something going on in the workforce. Is this month the start of some big trend or are we seeing some adjustments in Statistics Canada numbers to make them more accurate?
“It’s a dramatic change no matter what has caused it.”
What’s muddying the waters about what’s happening is there were also 4,600 people who left the labor force, which now stands at 189,500. The number of people employed (177,400) dropped by 500.
There were also 1,300 fewer people classified as unemployed in the region last month. That number now stands at 12,100 and is the lowest it’s been since Oct. 1, 2019.
Falconer said it will take another month of statistics to get a more accurate picture of what’s going on in the local workforce.
“It could be a case of some retirements, impacts of the latest wave of COVID, child care issues, taking care of family members, personal illness, not wanting to return to an office or upgrading education for career changes,” Falconer said.
“The one thing we know for sure is the pandemic has permanently changed the workforce.”
Falconer said the local sectors of the economy performing the best were information, culture and recreation (plus 1,200 jobs), manufacturing (up 800 jobs), finance, real estate, rental and leasing (plus 700) and educational services (plus 700).
There were 6,460 job postings locally last month, led by retail (502 openings), health care (378), manufacturing (376) and construction (135).
However, there appeared to be a growing reluctance among workers to apply as the participation rate saw a 1.6 percentage drop to 61.5 per cent. That’s still above the long-term average in recent years of 59 to 60 per cent.
Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Rakesh Naidu said a shrinking talent pool is unwelcome news for employers.
“When the unemployment rate was much higher, employers were still having a hard time finding staff, so this will be stressful for employers,” Naidu said. “There’s already a definite workforce shortage not just in Windsor Essex, but across the province and country.”
Naidu said many part-time workers are also not interested in being upgraded to full-time positions when given the opportunity.
While employees are re-assessing their careers, Naidu said many business owners are doing the same.
“I expect in the next few months we’re going to see many ownership changeovers or businesses shut down as owners decide on their future,” Naidu said. “I think we’re entering a period of real transition.”
He also expects the decline in the unemployment rate to continue in the coming months.
“I think the supply chain shortages have hit this community harder than others,” Naidu said. “Our largest employer and its suppliers were all impacted, so our numbers were naturally higher.
“I think we’re seeing a return to relative stability in our core sectors of manufacturing, agriculture and transportation.”