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London unemployment surpasses Windsor

Posted by GuruDan on August 12, 2011

Windsor StarWindsor Star – Wed, 10 Aug, 2011

 

London has eclipsed Windsor as a poster child for high unemployment in Canada and officials here say they feel that city’s pain.

"We’ve had the dubious distinction of having the highest large urban unemployment rate in Canada for quite awhile and we can certainly empathize," said Ron Gaudet, CEO of the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation.

London Mayor Joe Fontana has called an emergency jobs summit for Friday in response to a rising unemployment rate, which is now higher than Windsor’s.

London’s jobless rate was 9.1 per cent in July, which was the highest of any large urban centre in Canada, while Windsor’s had dropped to eight per cent.

"We’ve been there and we don’t want to go back," said Mayor Eddie Francis. "But when our rate was climbing, we made some very strategic decisions.

"We could have buried our heads in the sand and waited it out but instead we decided to reposition this region for future growth by reducing our debt, holding the line on taxes and modernizing our transportation infrastructure to make us more attractive to outside investment."

While Fontana couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the London Economic Development Corporation said the summit is designed as a brainstorming session to develop some short-term strategies but that in the long term, London will be looking for provincial and federal job creation funding.

"We’re been relatively thriving in our region but now with modest declines in our employment numbers, we have to redouble our efforts to develop long-term job creation strategies and the summit is the first step in that process," said Kadie Ward, director of marketing and communications for the LEDC.

Francis said he reacts cautiously to unemployment numbers "because they can turn on a dime but the biggest mistake we can make now is to think we’ve turned the corner and take our foot off the gas.

"We have to remain aggressive and continue to focus on our job creation and investment strategies."

Francis, who was out of the country on economic development-related business, declined to say where he was travelling but said he expects the trip to bear investment fruit by the fall.

In July 2009, Windsor’s jobless rate peaked at 15.2 per cent and has been either the worst or second-worst in Canada for most of the last 24 months, until Friday’s surprising figures were announced.

In the past 12 months, Windsor’s unemployment rate has fallen by 3.4 percentage points while London’s has increased by 0.9 percentage points.

Gaudet said the temptation is to "start high fiving when the rate drops and going into deep bouts of depression when it increases, but job creation is a long term process because it’s very difficult to move the numbers in any appreciable way in the short term.

"The important thing is to avoid finger pointing and to tap into municipal, provincial and federal job-creation strategies as much as possible.

"And what we have to remember is that we are all part of the Southwestern Ontario economic region and when one community hurts, we all share that pain," said Gaudet.

While some point to the fact that Windsor’s labour force has fallen by nine per cent in the past 12 months, suggesting that people have either left the city or given up on finding employment, which can have a positive impact on the unemployment rate, StatsCan’s figures are generated by the same method in every city across Canada.

In July there were 1,200 fewer people in Windsor’s workforce compared to June, 900 more people working and 2,000 fewer people unemployed.

In London, there were 300 more people in the workforce compared to June, 800 fewer people employed and 1,000 more people unemployed.

It’s expected that London’s unemployment rate may get worse before it improves, with Ford planning to close its St. Thomas assembly plant in September, throwing an additional 900 area residents out of work.

Closure of a parts supplier which builds seats for Ford is expected to cost the area a further 400 jobs.

London’s unemployment figres includes St. Thomas.

Fontana’s summit is scheduled for Friday and will include London region politicians, labour officials and representatives of business, manufacturers, post-secondary institutions, health care, home building and real estate.

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