Statistics Canada says there were 6,040 people in Hamilton receiving employment insurance benefits in December 2012. That's a 1.5 per cent drop from the previous December.

In the last month of 2011 there were 6,130 people receiving employment insurance benefits in the city.

Across Canada the number of people receiving regular employment insurance fell in December 2012 for the third time in four months, hitting a level similar to that of last spring.

The agency says there were 517,000 people on EI in December, down 1.6 per cent from November.

All provinces had fewer beneficiaries in December, with the largest percentage decreases occurring in Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba.

To receive EI benefits, individuals must first submit a claim and the number of claims provides an indication of the number of people who could become beneficiaries.

Nationally, there were 226,700 initial and renewal claims in December, virtually unchanged from the previous month.

Provincially, there were fewer claims in Manitoba, Alberta, New Brunswick and Quebec, while the number increased in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario and there was little change in the other provinces.

Unemployment rate

Hamilton's unemployment rate edged downward for a sixth-straight month in December. Statistics Canada reports that the city's jobless rate fell to 5.8 per cent, down 0.1 percentage points from the month before.

Here's how Hamilton stacks up compared to its neighbours in the Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey that was released Feb. 8:

  • Oshawa 9.6 per cent
  • St. Catherines/Niagara 7.1 per cent
  • Kitchener 6.9 per cent
  • London, Ont. 8.5 per cent
  • Windsor 9.7 per cent

The provincial average was 7.7 per cent, while the Canadian average was 7 per cent.

Seasonal work on rise

A study released in early February says part time and seasonal work is on the rise in Hamilton, but tens of thousands of people wish they could work more hours or weeks.

According to the Social Planning and Research Council (SPRC) of Hamilton's social landscape bulletin, the number of people in full-time, full-year positions in Hamilton has increased by only 16 per cent since 1976. Meanwhile, part-time, part-year or seasonal work has increased by 38 per cent.

The Hamilton Census Metropolitan Area (which includes Burlington and Grimsby) has seen its population shoot up 53 per cent in that same time period.

"Taking into account the proportion of involuntary part-time workers, there are about 68,000 part-time, part-year or seasonal workers in Hamilton who would prefer to work more hours or weeks," the study says.

It added that almost three quarters of the Hamilton CMA's working age population is employed, which is a higher proportion than just before the last recession and higher than the average for the province.