TORONTO—Ontario led Canada in job creation in January, adding a net total of 19,800 jobs, most of them full-time, but there are still stubborn pockets in the province where work remains scarce.
Despite the gains, Ontario’s unemployment rate last month held steady at 6.7 per cent, below the Canadian average of 7.2 per cent.
“The majority of the jobs being created in Ontario by far are full-time, good paying jobs,” said Finance Minister Charles Sousa. “Many of the sectors of the economy that are growing are high end, highly skilled, more technical areas like bio-tech, clean-tech, agri-food processing and financial services.”
The jobless rate in Windsor remains the highest of any major city in Canada at 9.3 per cent, down from 9.7 per cent in December, while the rate in St. Catharines-Niagara and Sudbury increased to 8.6 per cent.
“While economic growth and job creation are excelling in many parts of the province, some regions are still hurting,” admitted Sousa. “We also recognize that while some sectors are leading the economy, others are still going through transition changes, including parts of the manufacturing sector.”
The New Democrats were “cautiously optimistic” about the overall job numbers, but said unemployment increased in eight Ontario cities and youth unemployment remains higher than the rest of the country.
“Ontarians are worried, and they’re hurting,” said NDP finance critic Catherine Fife. “Good stable jobs are disappearing, and people are feeling more and more worried about their family’s future.”
The Liberal government should treat companies equally but instead it privately decides which firms should benefit financially from programs such as the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund, added Fife.
“That is not a jobs’ strategy that is working for the people of this province, and it certainly doesn’t instill confidence,” she said. “There’s a lack of a level playing field. Businesses do not see this government as on their side.”
The Progressive Conservatives said people in many parts of the province have no confidence they will be able to find a good job.
“If you drill down into the regions and start asking questions about whether people are employed or whether they’re precariously employed or under-employed, that’s when you get to the nitty gritty of what’s really happening,” said PC critic John Yakabuski. “We think there’s a lot more work that needs to be done to create the sustained growth that Ontario requires.”
Sousa agreed some sectors of the province’s economy are growing because of the falling value of the Canadian dollar.
However, he said many Ontario manufacturers invested in new technology when the loonie was closer to par with its U.S. counterpart, and are able to grow now and export products around the world.
“It’s really given them the ability to seize on these opportunities because of the investments they made to improve their productivity during times when we didn’t have a buyer State-side,” he said. “Now they’re bearing the fruits of those investments.”
Both the Tories and NDP cited a Chamber of Commerce report showing that only 30 per cent of Ontario’s businesses have confidence in the Liberal government’s handling of the economy.