City’s employment numbers take downward turn

Hamilton has lost 14,000 jobs over the past year, according to the most recent figures from Statistics Canada.

The latest issue of the agency’s Labour Force Survey shows the area shed 3,000 full-time positions and 11,000 part-time jobs since September of last year.

The loss kicked the Hamilton-Burlington-Grimsby area’s unemployment rate to 7.5 per cent, up half a percentage point from the same month last year. The national unemployment rate stands at 6.9 per cent.

Economist Erin Weir of the United Steelworkers said the StatsCan numbers paint a grim picture for Hamilton.

“The numbers for Hamilton strike me as being atrociously bad,” he said. “Those numbers are devastating at a time when the working age population is growing.”

Specifically, the federal numbers, a three-month moving average not seasonally adjusted, show that between September 2012 and last month the region’s population rose by 6,200 while its labour force shrank by 8,800.

Total employment fell to 366,000 from 380,200 while the number not in the labour force rose 19,400 and the number officially unemployed rose by 1,000.

(The most common measure of the unemployment rate only counts people actively looking for work as unemployed. People who’ve given up the search are not counted.)

Weir speculated part of the loss in Hamilton may be continued job losses in the manufacturing sector. Nationally, that segment shed 26,000 jobs in the most recent report.

Neil Everson, director of the city’s economic development department, found the federal numbers “hard to believe” because the area hasn’t experienced any large layoffs or plant closings recently.

Instead, it has seen continued development of the Ancaster industrial park and the first hiring for the Maple Leaf Foods plant in Glanbrook.

“We’re still seeing good solid activity out there,” he said. “The signs say we’re doing quite well.”

The national unemployment rate of 6.9 per cent marked its lowest level since 2008 and was triggered partly by 21,000 young workers giving up the search for employment.

Weir was troubled by those figures.

“I think today’s report confirms the basic narrative which is that Canada’s economy is creating jobs, but barely enough jobs to keep pace with growth in our working age population,” he said.

However, Weir said the shift from part-time jobs to full-time employment and the move from self-employment to employer-paid positions were promising.

The number of full-time jobs increased 23,400, while part-time employment fell by 11,500.

Overall, the economy added 11,900 new jobs for the month, just ahead of the 10,000 that had been expected by economists. That followed a gain of 59,200 jobs in August.

Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter said that, in general, the details of the report were stronger than the overall numbers would suggest.

“The private sector, in particular, saw very strong job growth and maybe, most notably, we actually had another notable decline in the unemployment rate and finally we’re below 7 per cent,” Porter said.

Provincially, Ontario’s unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 7.3 per cent.

Among the industries tracked, finance, insurance, real estate and leasing were the leaders in overall job growth with 33,000 new workers in September, while there were 19,000 new jobs in natural resources and a gain of 8,500 in agriculture.

sarnold@thespec.com