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Northern Ontario cities not spared from record province-wide job losses

Financial Accountability Office of Ontario releases report on 2020 labour market
Sudbury subdivision construction

Northern Ontario cities took a major hit in job losses in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) released its latest report on Ontario’s labour market, evaluating the impact of COVID-19 on employment across various demographic groups, industries, and major cities.

Overall, Ontario lost 355,300 jobs last year, marking the province’s largest annual decline in employment on record. The steep job loss caused the province’s annual unemployment rate to jump to 9.6 per cent in 2020, the highest since 1993.

In this region, Thunder Bay (‑5.9 per cent) and Greater Sudbury (‑6.7 per cent) experienced job loss at a sharper pace relative to the provincial average.

Construction in Greater Sudbury and the wholesale and retail trade in Thunder Bay drove the job losses, according to the report.

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With the onset of the COVID‑19 pandemic, the FAO report said, many of Ontario’s Census Metropolitan Areas experienced record declines in annual employment, although the pace varied across regions.

Peterborough recorded the toughest job losses (‑13.5 per cent) among the major cities in 2020, with two‑fifths of the decline in the construction sector. Windsor (‑10.9 per cent) was second, with significant contractions in wholesale and retail trade, and information, culture and recreation.

More than half of the total job losses in Ontario were concentrated in industries facing significant pandemic-related restrictions, including accommodation and food services (-110,700), retail trade (-47,000), and transportation and warehousing (-38,200).

As well, an increasing number of Ontarians worked far fewer hours, bringing the total number of employees affected by the pandemic to just over 765,000 – representing about one in 10 jobs.

Young workers were particularly affected by the pandemic, accounting for about four in 10 jobs lost in the province. Youth employment (ages 15 to 24) fell to the lowest level in two decades, while their unemployment rate jumped to 22.0 per cent, the highest on record.

Females experienced larger job losses compared to males across all major age groups. Unlike previous recessions, the service sector, which tends to require close customer contact, lost jobs at a faster pace compared to goods-producing industries. Female workers (-202,600 or -5.8 per cent) experienced larger job losses compared to male workers (-152,600 or -3.9 per cent).

The FAO provides independent analysis on the state of the province's finances, trends in the provincial economy and related matters important to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.