Kingston lone bright spot for job creation: study
Almost all the jobs created in Ontario since the 2008 recession have been in the Toronto and Ottawa areas, leaving eastern Ontario and other parts of the province with close to zero job growth, according to a new study by the Fraser Institute.
The institute’s figures show that the hot markets of Toronto and Ottawa area accounted for 98.6 per cent of the net new jobs in the last nine years, meaning the rest of the province saw few new jobs or actually suffered declines.
“In other words, if the rest of Ontario outside of Toronto and Ottawa is taken as a whole, there has been almost no job creation at all since 2008,” the study said in its bleak assessment of the employment picture.
When you look at Ontario as a whole, the province has dragged behind the rest of Canada in economic growth since 2003, showing an average annual increase of only 0.5 per cent a year – half the national average, the study calculated. The figures are even worse since 2008 when the average was 0.3 per cent, the institute says.
Ontario was only able to reach that tepid performance level because of the relatively robust Toronto and Ottawa, the figures indicate. If you subtract those areas from the mix, the economic picture is even more troubling.
“While Ontario as a whole has suffered from weak economic performance in recent years, the economic pain in the province has not been spread evenly,” say the study’s authors, Steve Lafleur and Ben Eisen. “In fact, the province’s economic performance has been uneven geographically, and some regions of the province have suffered significantly more than others.”
One of those regions to suffer is eastern Ontario, which includes the larger urban areas of Kingston, Peterborough and Cornwall as well as such smaller communities as Brockville.
The bright spot in eastern Ontario (outside of the Ottawa region) was Kingston, which experienced a modest 4.4-per-cent net job growth between 2008 and 2016. But that relatively good news story was offset by a five per cent decrease in job creation in Peterborough and an astounding 33-per-cent collapse in jobs in Cornwall since 2008, the study shows.
The study blames the decline in manufacturing for the drop in job creation. Manufacturing declined three per cent in Peterborough and 1.3 per cent in Kingston, which accounts for the city’s average performance. The authors didn’t have the manufacturing stats for Cornwall, but they suspected that the decline in manufacturing to be a villain in that city’s job stats as well.
Turning to the unemployment picture in the big three eastern Ontario cities, the report found the numbers more encouraging than the job creation statistics. Cornwall’s figures continued to be worrisome with its 2016 unemployment rate at 8.1 per cent being 1.5 per cent higher than before the 2008 recession. But Kingston and Peterborough’s job figures were relatively good – they were stable in Kingston and even fell in Peterborough.
The authors didn’t include the statistics for rural eastern Ontario or such small communities as Brockville.
The authors speculate that the region’s aging population might account for the relatively slow job growth.
In Kingston and Peterborough, for example, the percentage of jobs in the health care and social assistance field grew to 17 per cent from 15 in Kingston and to 18 per cent from 14 in Peterborough.
Kingston owes its more stable employment situation to its higher education institutions, the military and corrections facilities, the study said.
Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen, left, MPP Sophie Kiwala and Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson speak during the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce Political Breakfast at the Delta Kingston Waterfront Hotel on Feb. 15, 2017.