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Sault's unemployment nearly doubled in past year (update)

2019's annual jobless rate of 8.9 per cent was up from a 20-year low in 2018
Closed and growing a bumper crop of dandelions in June 2019, the Sutherland Global Services e-commerce building at 71 Old Garden River Rd. is now the new home of Northshore Sports and Auto Inc. David Helwig/SooToday

Sault Ste. Marie's annual unemployment rate jumped sharply from 4.5 per cent in 2018 to 8.9 per cent in 2019, according to year-end figures released Friday by Statistics Canada.

The near-doubling of our jobless rate, in a year marked by stinging business closures including the downtown Walmart and the Sutherland and Agero call centres, comes on the heels of monthly rates as low as 4.7 per cent in February 2019 and 3.3 per cent in December, 2018 – which Future SSM described last June as "the lowest it has been in 20 years."

Last year's annual unemployment rate of 8.9 per cent of the labour force was identical to the Sault's 2015 rate.

Our 2016 rate was 8.2 per cent.

In 2017, it was 5.7 per cent.

As recently as three months ago, Mayor Christian Provenzano was proclaiming an average unemployment rate "of 4.8 percent so far in 2019."

"A drop to 4.6 per cent is in the cards for 2020," the mayor said during his Oct. 3 State of the City address. "These are historically low unemployment rates for this region and partially result from slower growth in labour force than in employment."

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Jordan Allard, digital media co-ordinator with the city’s department of corporate services, has asked that this article make clear that unemployment figures in Mayor Provenzano’s State of the City Address were from a Conference Board of Canada outlook report published in September, 2019)

Last year's annual jobless rate in North Bay was 5.2 per cent, down from 6.0 per cent the previous year.

The annual unemployment rate for Timmins hasn't been published for the past two years, suppressed because of requirements in the federal Statistics Act related to confidentiality thresholds and small sample sizes.

Also released Friday by Statistics Canada were the following monthly rates for the just-ended month of December.

Rates for the same month in 2018 are shown in brackets:

December employment rate

  • Sault Ste, Marie - 54.3% (56.8% in 2018)
  • Timmins - 62.2% (58.4%)
  • North Bay - 54.8% (55.2%)

Unemployment rate

  • Sault Ste. Marie - 6.7% (2018 rate suppressed because of confidentiality thresholds)
  • Timmins - 5.6% (2018 rate suppressed because of confidentiality thresholds)
  • North Bay - 4.7% (4.7%)

Participation rate (number of labour force participants expressed as percentage of population 15 years and over)

  • Sault - 58.3% (58.7% in 2018)
  • Timmins - 65.6% (61.4%)
  • North Bay - 57.5% (57.9%)


David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans six decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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