Windsor saw most COVID-19 job losses across Ontario, report says
The region ‘fared worse’ than the provincial average, says Ontario Financial Accountbility Office
Nearly 20 per cent of Windsor's working population is now unemployed as a result of COVID-19-related job losses, making the city the hardest hit labour market for such losses across the province.
A new report from Ontario's Financial Accountability Office found that between February and May, Windsor topped the charts with a 19.1 per cent decline in employment as a result of pandemic-related shutdowns. The region even "fared worse" than the provincial average, according to Ontario's Financial Accountability Officer Peter Weltman
Compared to Ontario, which saw a 15.3 per cent drop in employment, Windsor lost 3.8 per cent more positions.
The report stated that Ontario was the hardest hit Canadian province, with approximately 2.2 million people losing their jobs or having their hours severely reduced due to pandemic-related closures.
Second to Windsor was St.Catharines-Niagara at 15.6 per cent, followed by Thunder Bay at 15.2 per cent. The City of Guelph was the least impacted by the pandemic, with a 4.9 per cent employment loss.
According to Weltman, Windsor was the hardest hit, because the city's economy heavily depends on manufacturing and the auto sector — both of which were already on the decline prior to the pandemic.
These industries, Weltman added, involve people working in close proximity to one another and, unlike office jobs, employees were unable to work from home.
"It's just an unfortunate set of circumstances," he said.
The U.S.-Canada border closure may have also led to the steep employment decline, though the report didn't directly address this, Weltman said.
Yet with wholesale and retail trade down in Windsor, any jobs dependent on warehousing, storage, transportation or supply chain management would have been significantly impacted, he added.
In May, the city also had the highest unemployment rate of all Canadian cities at 16.7 per cent.
Stage 1 holds Windsor back
On Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that Windsor-Essex would be the only region in the province to remain in Stage 1 of reopening.
An emailed statement from the office of Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said the city is aware that the community has been "hit hard" by the public health pandemic, and that "remaining in Stage 1 is going to continue to make a challenging situation worse."
Moving forward, Weltman said it's hard to predict how Windsor and Ontario will rebound, but added that he anticipates the economy will start to see a "gradual recovery" around the fall season as people are hired back.
Should a second wave of COVID-19 arrive, that recovery may be severely delayed, Weltman said.
"We think...that the worst is probably over," he said.