'Overall trends' in Ontario not bad despite job losses, Brad Duguid says

Ontario's economic development minister says "overall trends" in the province are strong despite a Statistic Canada report on Friday that said Ontario lost 36,000 jobs in July.

Ontario's government 'is on the wrong track,' PC economic development critic says

Brad Duguid, Ontario's minister of economic development, says the provincial economy is still strong despite a loss of jobs reported by Statistics Canada on Friday. (CBC )

Ontario's economic development minister says "overall trends" in the province are strong despite a Statistics Canada report on Friday that said Ontario lost 36,000 jobs in July.

"Obviously, we would have rather seen an increase in jobs in July, but the overall trends in Ontario continue to remain very, very positive," Brad Duguid said Friday. "July was the 15th month in a row that we've seen Ontario's unemployment lower than the national average."

Duguid acknowledged to reporters that the employment news for the province could have been brighter. "Unfortunately, July's numbers also represented a downward fluctuation this time."

Statistics Canada said Ontario suffered the biggest job losses of all provinces in July, with its labour market decreasing by 36,000 positions. Statistics Canada said 18,900 of those jobs were full time. Canada, as a whole, lost more than 31,000 jobs last month.

The federal agency reported that Ontario's unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.4 per cent because fewer people participated in the labour market. In comparison, Alberta saw its unemployment rate rise to a 22-year high of 8.6 per cent.

Duguid said Ontario is more than holding its own compared to other provinces.

Matthew Stewart, associate director of economic analysis for the Conference Board of Canada in Ottawa, said the board still expects Ontario to be the "growth leader" among the provinces but it is suffering from weak employment, weak business investment and a lack of growth in exports.

"There's been no jobs created in Ontario since January. Ontario is doing better than most of the other provinces, but it's not without problems," he said.

Stewart said businesses in the province are reluctant to expand because of concerns over the global economy. The board, however, continues to forecast a GDP growth of nearly three per cent for Ontario in 2016.

"Ontario is still expected to have a good year," he said.

Monte McNaughton, the Progressive Conservative critic for economic development, said the Ontario economy is suffering in part because hydro rates are "sky high."

He said the cost of living is also too high in the province while wages are not growing as fast as they are in other parts of the country.

"Ontario's government is getting the fundamentals wrong and the decisions are costing jobs and hurting Ontario's economy. Hundreds of thousands of different rules and regulations are choking Ontario's economy, We have new taxes and now we have taxes on taxes," he said.

"Ontario is on the wrong track."

Nothing amiss in Toronto: city

Mike Williams, general manager of economic development and culture for the city of Toronto, said the Toronto economy is strong although employment itself has not grown in the last few months.

"I think employment in the city itself has been pretty flat over the last little while, so each month it'll bounce up or bounce down because of the way the data gets measured is subject to fluctuation," Williams said.

"We have a strong construction industry, which is obvious with the cheap dollar. We have a strong tourism industry. Our food manufacturing industry is doing very well. So, from our perspective, things look solid. It can always be better, but we've had it a lot worse, so I don't think this report is a signal that anything is seriously amiss here in Toronto."

Williams said unemployment for young people, defined by Statistics Canada as 15 to 24, remains too high in the city.

"In the summer months, you have more youth looking for work because they're not in school right now. So that generally puts a strain on the unemployment rate for youth, which is way too high in this city and across Canada."

With files from Taylor Simmons