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Guelph's done an 'exceptional job' getting people back to work, says expert

Guelph's unemployment rate has dropped 4.8 per cent in the past two months
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Macdonell Street. Kenneth Armstrong/GuelphToday file photo

While Guelphites were undoubtedly a victim of job losses as a result of the pandemic, the city and the county at large are on the right track to bring down the unemployment rate.

“Guelph has done the exceptional job of bringing down that rate and quickly,” said Charlene Hofbauer, executive director of the Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo Wellington Dufferin.

“It’s come down a solid four percent in three months,” she said of both Guelph and Wellington County. 

Hofbauer said many factors contribute to the unemployment rate dropping such as increasing interest in shopping local, businesses reinventing themselves, and the province reopening. 

“When businesses support local, you generate those business to business sales which lets you hire more people potentially,” said Hofbauer.

A year ago, Guelph's unemployment rate was just 2.2. per cent, the lowest in Canada. After the provincial lockdown, the unemployment rate for Guelph and Wellington hit 14.9 percent in June, and then steadily dropped to 13.8 percent in July and now 11.1 per cent in August. 

Workforce Planning Board of Waterloo Wellington Dufferin saw that in rural areas of the region, the unemployment rate is estimated to be even better, around 8.8 per cent which is lower than Guelph’s and the region’s overall rate of 10.7 per cent.

“I did not think it would drop quite that fast but it has dropped fairly quickly in comparison to a lot of other communities in Ontario,” said Hofbauer mentioning that the only other city that dropped as quickly is Windsor. 

She said it will likely take a while before Guelph can return to its unemployment rate of 2.2 per cent. 

“We don’t know month to month what our situation is going to be,” said Hofbauer.

The board saw an increase in businesses within Guelph and Wellington County in the past three months with many businesses that employ over 200 workers retaining their employee range.  

However, many industries faced significant changes in their employee numbers. For finance positions, the changes were mostly employee and business losses. Companies in the construction, retail and manufacturing sectors saw a lot of employee movement as some companies saw their employee numbers grow based upon demand and others saw contractions into a lower range of employees. 

Hofbauer said the healthcare industry was one of the few industries that saw growth and stability in its employee numbers while arts, entertainment and recreation also saw employee growth along with some owner-operated businesses potentially hiring an employee or two. 

“Healthcare never really faded away and that’s because healthcare was so key to the COVID response,” said Hofbauer. 

“While there has been a lot of opportunities to keep employees or minimize losses through the first part of the pandemic, support will be needed to keep new companies open and to ensure that businesses can retain as many of their employees as possible through the second half of the year,” said Hofbauer.

The board noticed that companies in the 10 to 49 employee range seemed to be the most negatively impacted by the pandemic and may even face additional obstacles as the pandemic continues. 

“That employer range of 10 to 49 will be a key one to watch due to the employee shifts that seem to be happening and will be one group who may need more support when continuing with recovery efforts,” said Hofbauer.

Hofbauer also pointed out that there were approximately 1,141 companies in Guelph and Wellington posting job positions on in August. 

Hofbauer said because people in Guelph and Wellington County are looking for work and the unemployment rates are lower compared to neighbouring cities, it means the talent is here and it's just a matter of businesses spreading the word of themselves stabilizing and growing.


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Anam Khan

About the Author: Anam Khan

Anam Khan is a journalist who covers numerous beats in Guelph and Wellington County that include politics, crime, features, environment and social justice
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