What About The Labour Participation Rate?

St. Clair College Industrial Mechanics students sit down with employers during a skilled trades job fair at the schools main campus, February 18, 2015. (Photo by Mike Vlasveld)

If you have suspected there are a lot more people unemployed in Windsor-Essex than the monthly jobless rate suggests, you would be right.

The unemployment rate for Windsor in December was 5.6% and Statistics Canada is expected to release January’s results this Friday. It’s not an unimportant statistic, but CEO of the Windsor-Regional Chamber of Commerce Matt Marchand says it tells only a small part of the story.

A report released by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce this week called Ontario Economic Report says while Windsor’s jobless rate is falling, it’s labour participation rate is actually slipping. It says 35% of men and women between the ages of 18 and 65 who are capable of working, for whatever reason are not.

There may be a lot of reasons why, but Marchand says there is no doubt it is contributing to the region’s poverty problem.

“We know the longer you stay unemployed, the harder it is to get a job,” says Marchand. “There’s a lot of discouraged workers it would seem in those numbers.”

He believes the labour participation rate deserves just as much attention as the unemployment rate.

“It’s everybody. It’s not just people who meet the definition or the criteria of what is unemployed,” he says. “What of the key things about being unemployed is actively seeking work. What happens if they’re discouraged? What happens if they’ve been on social assistance for a period of time? What happens if they can’t get to a job?”

Marchand says it is a gaping hole in the economy.

“We’re leaving a lot of economic activity, growth, wealth on the table. That’s a third of our workforce,” he says.

The report also says employers are having trouble finding qualified workers.