By the end of 2020 there were almost 27,000 fewer jobs in Hamilton that the year before. It was actually worse at the height of the pandemic last spring when at its peak almost 57,000 Hamiltonians had lost their jobs. This was the news from a labour market survey conducted by Workplace Planning Hamilton. Not since the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 was Hamilton’s economy as negatively affected. Since 2017 there was also a period of robust growth with the unemployment rate falling to 4.3% in 2019, lower than the Ontario rate, 5.6%. In 2020 we saw the unemployment rate increase drastically to 8.8%, with there being 38,200 people unemployed.
The increase in the unemployment started in March when the lockdowns started occurring. Hamilton saw a decline of 56,900 jobs between March and June and the unemployment rate increased to 11.3%. In July the economy started opening up again and a recovery started with job growth occurring in many industries especially ones that were greatly affected by the initial lockdowns, i.e. Retail trade and Accommodation and food services. The one concern was that the job growth that started in July was slowing down each month and the recovery was losing steam.
In Autumn the virus was resurgent with the COVID-19 cases increasing across the province. This time Hamilton saw a much higher increase in the case counts than earlier in the year. This led Hamilton to go into the lockdown earlier than some communities, with lockdowns beginning in November. Therefore, by December the number of unemployed increased again despite December being typically a strong month for employment growth.
Going in 2021 Hamilton and communities across Ontario are in lockdown and the local economy is struggling. Economists are predicting another recession to start the year which means government assistance and programs are needed to maintain demand. The positive news is the vaccine is being deployed now across Ontario and many economists predict that there will be a strong rebound in the later half of the year.