UK: London’s jobless rate climbs

By Hank Daniszewski

The unemployment rate in the London area climbed to 7.2 per cent in May from seven per cent the previous month – matching the highest level in five years.  It hasn’t been higher since July 1997. That’s no surprise to the people at the Goodwill Career Centre in London who have witnessed first-hand the impact of a steady stream of layoffs and plant closings. “Within the last year the majority of clients have been laid off from manufacturing and their education level is between Grade 8 and Grade 10,” said program manager Krystyna Lucas.

Lucas said many landed jobs years ago after dropping out of high school and were hoping to hang on until retirement.

Now, they have to go back and finish high school — even to get another factory job — and are intimidated by a job market that has changed dramatically.

“Many don’t understand they now need a resume, not just an application. They have to go through behavioural interviews and Internet job searches,” said Lucas.

Goodwill is implementing a new provincial program called Second Career that will pay laid-off workers up to $28,000 towards tuition and living expenses for up two years while they retrain for a new job.

Ontario Training, Colleges and Universities minister John Milloy visited the Goodwill office in London yesterday and said longer-term retraining is the answer for some people who have bounced from job to job.

According to Statistics Canada, London seemed to be sharing the unemployment pain of other Ontario cities with a big stake in the troubled auto sector.

Windsor at 8.2 per cent unemployment, Oshawa (7.9 per cent) and St. Catharines (7.2 per cent) posted the highest jobless numbers in the province.

Across Canada the jobless rate held steady last month at 6.1 per cent, but all the growth was in part-time employment.

Mary Anne Fox of Service Canada said the jump in London’s jobless rate was due to small increases in the labour force and the number of unemployed. During the past year the number of unemployed in the London region has jumped by 3,300.

She said the only bright spot is the labour force has grown steadily for years and stands at 262,000, about 13,000 more than five years ago.

Unemployment in Ontario edged up from 6.4 from 6.3 per cent last month. Despite the steady stream of bad news in the auto sector, Ontario added 15,300 manufacturing jobs last month, although the sector is still down more than 48,000 jobs compared to a year ago.

Avery Shenfeld, senior economist with CIBC, said the jump in manufacturing jobs last month was likely an anomaly.

“Given recent layoff announcements, it’s hard to see the manufacturing sector as anything but a sustained source of job losses until the U.S. economy is back on its feet,” he said.

Tim Carrie of the Canadian Auto Workers was in Huron County yesterday explaining pension benefits to workers at Dunline Rubber Products, which is shutting down after 40 years in business.

Carrie praised the provincial retraining programs, but said the federal government seems indifferent to the steady erosion of manufacturing jobs in Ontario.

He reacted angrily to comments made by federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty this week that laid off auto workers in his riding of Oshawa should find a job in financial services.

“It’s cold, It’s callous, and it ignores the realities out there,” said Carrie.

(the London free press)

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