Jobs are up and storefront vacancies are down in downtown Hamilton

Downtown Hamilton has a growing number of jobs and a decreasing percentage of office vacancies, a new city report says. And the number of vacant storefronts is down slightly too.

Government is the most common downtown employer, followed by health care and social assistance

A new city report shows both commercial and office vacancy rates are down, and more people are working downtown. (Terry Asma/CBC)

Downtown Hamilton has a growing number of jobs and a decreasing percentage of office vacancies, a new city report says. And the number of vacant storefronts is down slightly too.

A report coming to city council's general issues committee Wednesday says there were 26,305 jobs downtown in 2019, including 18,123 full time, compared to 26,119 the year before. The highest number were government employees, including police.

The vacancy rate of downtown office space is also 11.9 per cent, the lowest in at least eight years, and only about seven per cent if you exclude office towers, the report said. The number of jobs increased by 186, or 0.5 per cent since 2018.

 Compared to 2011, there are 2,380 more jobs in the core as of 2019.

Jason Farr, Ward 2 councillor, said the numbers show the once-struggling downtown continues to surge.

This graph shows the number of jobs in downtown Hamilton. (City of Hamilton)

"The trends are continuing, and for the last decade, we have been maybe not celebrating enough the revitalization of downtown," he said.

The city has offered some incentive grants around remediation and heritage, he said. But most of it has been "a grassroots effort."

The numbers come from a city canvass of 2,233 businesses.

The surveys found 68.9 per cent of downtown jobs were full time, 23.6 per cent part time and 7.5 per cent seasonal.

The highest increase in downtown jobs was in public administration (527 more), health care and social assistance (223),  finance and insurance (191), and real estate, rental and leasing (119). There was an 846-job drop in accommodation and food services.

This chart shows downtown office vacancy rates year over year. (City of Hamilton)

As for commercial vacancies, the surveys showed a 10.4 per cent vacancy rate for street-level storefronts, or about one in 10. 

Here are the sectors that employ the most people downtown:

  • Public administration: 7,335. The increases in 2019, the report says, were primarily at the provincial government level. There are 1,940 federal government jobs in downtown Hamilton, as well as 1,970 provincial jobs and 3,445 municipal.
  • Health care and social assistance: 3,367.
  • Professional, scientific and technical services: 3,365.
  • Accommodation and food services: 2,625. The drop in numbers, the report says, is primarily due to a catering and food services operation moving to somewhere else in Hamilton.
  • Finance and insurance: 1,860.
  • Retail: 1,273.

Downtown Hamilton has seen a trend toward more coworking spaces, the report says. 

"There is a growing trend of employers offering working from home, telecommuting and hoteling options to their employees," it says. 

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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