Windsor on the grow: Unemployment rate drops to Four

Windsor on the grow: Unemployment rate drops to Four.9 per cent

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Workers cross a street during a shift switch at Fiat Chrysler Automotive’s Windsor Assembly Plant on Feb. 8, 2017. Tyler Brownbridge / Windsor Starlet

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Windsor’s unemployment rate has dropped to Four.9 per cent — the lowest the statistic has been for our region in decades, and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

According to Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey released Friday, Windsor’s unemployment rate for April was the eighth lowest among the census metropolitan areas included in the survey.

The Canadian unemployment rate was 6.Five per cent and the Ontario unemployment rate was Five.8 per cent.

Our rate for April demonstrated a 0.Trio per cent decrease from our rate in March, and a 0.Two per cent decrease compared to February. It’s the very first time Windsor’s rate has been recorded below Five.1 per cent since at least 2001.

A decade ago, Windsor’s unemployment rate at this time of the year was 9.Four per cent — one of the highest in Canada.

Such a switch of fortunes hasn’t escaped the notice of economy watchers.

“Windsor’s economy is doing remarkably well,” praised Craig Alexander, chief economist of the Conference Board of Canada.

“In fact, in terms of the growth forecast for this year, amongst all the cities in Canada, we expect Windsor-Essex to display the 2nd strongest growth in the country — right after Toronto.”

Employees leave FCA’s Windsor Assembly Plant during a shift switch on Feb. 8, 2017.

Alexander was in Windsor on Friday to speak at the CBoC’s first-ever Windsor-Essex Business Outlook event.

The reason for the region’s resurgence? Alexander credited an invigorated manufacturing sector. “What we’ve seen is a lot of strength. After a very difficult time, for many years, the manufacturing and auto sectors have truly come back to life.”

Part of that is due to strong request in the U.S. automobile market: Alexander pointed out that nine out of ten vehicles made in Canada are sold in the U.S.

“The level of auto sales in North America is fairly high,” Alexander said.

Indeed, the auto market has been so sturdy that Alexander believes our rate of growth will see some moderation when that activity inevitably lodges down.

If we want to keep our positive trend going, we’ll need to stay on top of the industry with education and training. “One thing that we must proceed to thrust on is upscaling the labour force,” Alexander said.

“We’re still observing situations where firms report they can’t find the highly-skilled workers they need. This acts as a constraint on growth.”

Another thing to see for is “disruptive technologies.” Barrie Kirk, executive director of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence, was another featured speaker at the Business Outlook event.

According to Kirk, the technology and manufacturing sectors are converging — which can present complications, but also major opportunities.

Kirk believes fully autonomous transport trucks will our reality by 2030. While that will eradicate an entire field of employment, Kirk feels Windsor-Essex can position itself in the years to come as a leading hub for the research and production of self-driving cars and trucks.

With the right workers, the right business environment, and the right governmental support, our region could become one of the most “friendly” places to develop, test, and deploy autonomous vehicles.

“It’s the Birth of Cars Two.0,” Kirk said.

A transport truck arrives at Fiat Chrysler Automotive’s Windsor Assembly Plant on March 24, 2017.

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