Guelph’s employment in 2021 returned to pre-pandemic level, FAO report shows

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WATCH: The province of Ontario will continue to focus on COVID-19 pandemic recovery as well as investments into hospitals and long-term care homes. – Oct 4, 2021

A report released on Wednesday from Ontario’s financial accountability officer (FAO) shows Guelph’s employment in 2021 returned to levels seen prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Royal City is among only a handful of major cities in the province that can make that claim, with the others being London, Peterborough, Toronto and the Ottawa-Gatineau area.

Read more: Ontario’s labour market rebounds to pre-pandemic levels but recovery uneven, report shows

In the report, the financial watchdog points to gains in professional, scientific and technical services that helped Guelph’s employment rise above the pre-pandemic level by 1.3 per cent.

Executive director of the Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo Wellington Dufferin Charlene Hofbauer said it is clear that Guelph’s labour market is rebounding faster than the province.

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“Guelph seemed to be a little different than the rest of the province going into the pandemic and even the year before the pandemic. Guelph had very low unemployment rates, very high participation rates,” she said.

The participation rate measures the proportion of the working-age population that is working or looking for work. As of January 2022, Guelph’s participation rate sits close to 70 per cent and is one of the highest in the province.

“So people are motivated to work and be engaged. In January, I think there were only 3,700 people unemployed in Guelph,” Hofbauer said. That’s still a lot of people we want to support them but it’s much lower than a lot of other areas.”

Looking at the whole province, the FAO’s report shows the labour market performed well in 2021, adding 344,800 jobs and seeing the unemployment rate drop to 8.0 per cent from 9.6 per cent in 2020.

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It also showed the recovery has been uneven across certain sectors and certain groups of the population.

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Hofbauer said the recovery has been uneven in Guelph as well.

“When I look at women, they are doing better but they may still be lagging a bit behind on their employment rates,” she said.

“Our youth are struggling just a little bit, not as much as maybe they would have in the past but their numbers are still pretty much the same as they were before we went into this pandemic.”

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Guelph’s retail sector is strong with 1,900 more people now working than in March 2020, according to Hofbauer. But she said the food service industry is still lagging behind.

“It’s still one of the areas where people are not working and employers maybe can’t bring people back as quickly as they could,” she said.

The FAO’s report noted that with COVID-19 restrictions reintroduced due to the Omicron variant earlier this year, 145,700 jobs were lost in Ontario and the unemployment rate rose more than a full percentage point, from 6.1 per cent in December to 7.3 per cent in January.

That is expected to quickly rebound as restrictions are lifted this month and next.

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