Survey finds ‘appalling’ labor shortages in some industries

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In a city with one of the highest unemployment rates in Canada, auto parts maker CenterLine (Windsor) Ltd. is not alone among local employers desperately looking for workers.

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“We have lots and lots of vacancies,” Vice President Larry Koscielski said. “We are very busy,” he said, adding that current vacancies at the company include office staff, IT, engineers, machinists and controllers.

In a new report from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, a growing number of businesses are expressing confidence in the future, but major concerns remain, including labor shortages.

“There’s good news and bad news here,” said Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rakesh Naidu. Sixth Annual Ontario Economic Report . Locally, he said, unemployment continues to fall from the worst of the pandemic in 2020, and more businesses are expressing a positive economic outlook.

Jobs without people and people without jobs

But Naidu said, at least locally, confidence expressed by the business community has gone from better than the provincial average in the previous survey a year earlier to below the Ontario average (53% vs. 57%) in the latest published report. Thusday.

“That’s not a good sign,” he said. The new report is also based on employer surveys conducted on the eve of the Omicron variant and the latest round of restrictions imposed by governments and health authorities.

CenterLine Vice President Larry Koscielski is pictured in the shop floor, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022.
CenterLine Vice President Larry Koscielski is pictured in the shop floor, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

The hardest-hit sectors, both for having to deal with pandemic restrictions and for maintaining staff during the recovery, were accommodation and food services (hospitality), retail and arts and leisure, said Naïdu. Nearly two-thirds of employers surveyed in Ontario said they are facing labor shortages and expect this to continue through 2022.

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“Jobs without people and people without jobs,” said Workforce WindsorEssex CEO Justin Falconer.

He said workers in some of the sectors facing repeated closures and restrictions over the nearly two years of COVID-19 “want to get off the elevator” and are looking for jobs elsewhere. Others, he said, are using the pandemic as an opportunity to reassess what they are doing with their lives.

“People change careers, that’s for sure,” he said. “Working one day, then the next – people in certain industries are hurting because of the pandemic.”

Falconer’s organization, which operates the region’s largest job board, currently has approximately 6,000 active job openings for the region, including nearly 800 in manufacturing. That’s down from the peak of over 7,100 postings in November, but still well above the average of 3,000 to 4,000 job openings available (anything from a day a month and more) before COVID-19 became a thing.

The current local unemployment rate is 6.9%, higher than Ontario’s 6% and Canada’s 5.9%, but lower than October’s 9.2%, and well below the peak of May 2020, when it reached 16.7% locally. That was higher than even during the worst of the Great Recession, when Windsor’s unemployment rate hit 15.7% in July 2009.

Naidu said reopening the economy would make the biggest difference in solving labor shortages.

“Removing restrictions, when the time is right – and it’s hopefully soon – is the number 1 thing. And I emphasize, sooner, because every day counts,” he said.

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  1. Stock photo of hands using a laptop.

    Workforce WindsorEssex launches new job portal

  2. Denise and John Salaris are shown at their home in Windsor on Monday December 6, 2021.

    Sporadic work year creates unprecedented challenges for autoworkers

  3. Border restrictions and microchip shortages are partly to blame for new figures showing Windsor has the highest unemployment rate among Canadian cities.  In this Nov. 10, 2020, file photo, a trailer of Pacificas is shown rolling out of the Windsor assembly plant.

    Windsor has the highest unemployment rate in Canada

As economic confidence improves, ‘the way forward remains uncertain for businesses and households as labor shortages, supply chain disruptions and inflation hit home’ , Ontario Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rocco Rossi said in a statement.

The survey also showed that the pandemic continues to have a disproportionate impact on small businesses, women-led organizations and people with disabilities. The hardest hit sectors, according to the chamber, are businesses in the arts, entertainment and agriculture.

Koscielisky said CenterLine, with about 800 local employees in four buildings and 545,000 square feet (50,362 square meters), is one such company with confident future economic prospects. But the manufacturing sector as a whole, he said, is “suffering badly” due to “supply chain issues” caused by the pandemic.

To check what types of jobs are available locally, go online to workforcewindsoressex.com/jobs .

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