Niagara’s economy growing but challenges remain

Niagara’s economy growing but challenges remain

The local economy has rebounded from the pandemic and is on the upswing, the latest report from Niagara Region’s economic development office shows.

The report, released late last week, showed the unemployment rate for Niagara fell to historically low levels at about five per cent by the fourth quarter of 2022 — a substantial decrease from the pandemic high of 13.4 per cent in early 2021.

The current seasonally adjusted rate is 4.4 per cent, said Blake Landry, the Region’s manager of economic research and analysis.

“The lowest ever was in March 2023 at four per cent, so it softened up a bit, but it’s still relatively very low, and much lower than Ontario, which is currently five per cent,” Landry said. “We are often outperforming Ontario on certain labour force indicators.”

Niagara’s unemployment figure will likely improve in coming months due to the seasonal nature of two of its biggest sectors — tourism and agribusiness.

“It’s 4.4 per cent adjusted, and 5.3 per cent unadjusted — so that tells me seasonal workers have not yet integrated into employment this year,” Landry said. “We’re still actually performing quite well, and we can expect that it will improve when seasonal employees go back to work.”

Although Niagara’s growth lags slightly behind Ontario’s rate, it is still trending in the right direction, Landry said.

“We are seeing a massive amount of industrial investment right now,” Landry said. “Companies like AMSi Inc. in Lincoln and Linamar in Welland have made announcements, and Heddle Shipyards in St. Catharines has been expanding. I could name probably a dozen significant projects in the industrial sector.”

“The interest rates help do that,” Landry said. “However, it’s still relatively expensive when compared to the income levels of Niagara.”

Landry said in the past two years, about 14,000 people moved to Niagara via interprovincial migration.

“They came from the GTA and Hamilton in particular. And that age demographic is between 35 and 45 years of age and then zero and four years of age. So really we’re talking a lot of young families.

“I believe this is a result of the housing prices across the province and the country. These people tend to have pretty strong income levels.”

“However, the people born and raised in Niagara may not have those same income levels. That makes it tough for them right now.”

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