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Region lags national employment trend, but is holding steady

Unemployment rates in the region are stable, but still above the national average, a reversal of the situation earlier in the pandemic, and indeed of longstanding lower rates here.

Nationally, the unemployment rate was 11.1 per cent in August, down from a peak of 13 per cent in June. That number was 12.9 per cent in this region, unchanged from July but up slightly from 12.2 per cent in June.

In April, when the national average was 8.7, that figure was 7.8 in Waterloo Region.

Still, there’s some good news in the latest numbers from Statistics Canada, says Charlene Hofbauer, executive director of the Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo Wellington Dufferin.

“The employment rate between July and August seems to have stabilized at 12.9 per cent and it’s one of the few that has stabilized as quite a few around the province have gone down. We went digging into some more numbers and we saw that there were more people actually coming back to the workforce, which is a good news story. Between February and June, we lost 30,000 people from our workforce, and in July and August we’ve seen 13,000 of those people come back. So, that may be why they unemployment rate has remained stable is because people are returning to the workforce or looking for work again,” she explained.

Of those 13,000 people returning to work, 6,000 of them went back in July, while 7,000 went back in August. These people either returned to a job from which they had previously been laid off, or they found new work, Hofbauer added.

“What might have happened was that they could be going into a new job, they could have decided that whatever had to remove them from the labour market such as childcare, had been resolved, they could return to looking for work or back to job. So, it’s a bit of a combination of a few things.”

One worrying figure is the number of people losing work continues to rise. In August, 900 people lost their jobs, bringing the total number of people out of work to 39,900. Hofbauer says this balances out as the number of people returning was significantly greater.

The hospitality and tourism sectors continue to see the most loses. She says they’re struggling the most right now, with some businesses unlikely to make it through the year. Companies with an employee range from 10 to 49 people are struggling as well.

The areas where gains are most notable include healthcare, manufacturing and finance.

Because the economy remains unpredictable, Hofbauer said it’s difficult to predict how the rest of the year will play out, adding the next few weeks will provide a great deal of information as schools reopen, for instance.

She encourages people looking for work to visit findyourjob.ca and help the recovery for themselves and the rest of the community.

The latest national figures show employment rose by 246,000 – 1.4 per cent – in August, compared with 419,000 (2.4 per cent) in July. Combined with gains of 1.2 million in May and June, this brought employment to within 1.1 million (down 5.7 per cent) of its pre-COVID level in February.

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