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Thunder Bay job market hit hard by COVID-19 shutdown

Financial Accountability Office says 2.2 million Ontarians lost jobs or faced reduced hours
Port Arthur shot
(File photo)

Thunder Bay was the third hardest-hit city in Ontario to be impacted by pandemic-related job losses between February and May.

The Financial Accountability Office (FAO) released a report on June 23 assessing the affects of COVID-19 on labour markets in the province's major cities.

The northwestern Ontario city recorded a steep 15.2 decline in employment with job losses in all major sectors, particularly accommodation and food services, manufacturing, transportation and warehousing. The city's unemployment rate in May peaked at 10.4 per cent.

Windsor was most affected by the pandemic with employment declining by 19.1 per cent, followed by St. Catharines-Niagara at 15.6 per cent.

Guelph was the least affected by the pandemic, with employment down 4.9 per cent.

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Sudbury recorded a relatively smaller loss (-10.9 per cent), said the FAO, supported by job gains in its public administration, and finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing sectors. But accommodations and food services, and the wholesale and retail trade bore the brunt of the job losses. Sudbury's unemployment rate reached 8.4 per cent in May.

Province-wide, employment fell by 64,500 jobs in May, adding to much larger job losses posted in March and April.

Since the pandemic began in March, the FAO said Ontario has experienced the sharpest job losses among all the Canadian provinces with 1.2 million workers out of work.

An estimated 2.2 million workers have been directly affected by the pandemic-related shutdowns, either through lost jobs or sharply reduced hours.

The province's unemployment rate jumped to a record high of 13.6 per cent in May.

Toronto, which accounted for more than half the province-wide decline in employment, saw job losses of 13.3 per cent over the February to May period.

In Ottawa, employment declined by a smaller 8.6 per cent, reflecting the heavy concentration of public administration jobs.

Looking ahead, the FAO said Ontario is likely to experience an increase in employment in June, reflecting the gradual reopening of the economy.

In May, there were some early signs of recovery, with employment increasing modestly in manufacturing, accommodation and food services, wholesale and retail trade, and construction.

Ontario is likely to see an increase in employment this month, the report said, reflecting the gradual reopening of the economy through the month. However, given the different timing of the reopening across the province, the pace of job creation may vary from place to place.