Ontario’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 per cent last week, down from 6.1 per cent the previous week, as employers responded to a weak economy and increased hiring in the wake of the province’s provincial election results.
The number of people working part-time dropped to 604,400 in March, the lowest since March 2014, according to Statistics Canada.
The province has seen a sharp increase in the number of part-timers since April and many employers are taking advantage of that.
“This is a pretty good sign that businesses are feeling confident and they’re starting to feel comfortable hiring people,” said Mark Wilson, president of the Ontario Business Council, which represents Ontario’s largest companies.
“The numbers don’t really show the full extent of the hiring that’s been happening,” he said.
Employment Minister Jason Kenney said the government is working to boost the economy by increasing spending on infrastructure and job creation.
“There’s a lot of momentum right now, we’re going to see a bit more activity in the next couple of weeks,” he told reporters.
“And we’ve seen that activity in terms of hiring, but we’ll see what happens in terms the growth in employment.”
The government has already announced more than $1 billion in stimulus spending in the coming months.
Last week, Mr. Kenney announced a $250-million stimulus fund to support businesses and help with job growth.
The Ontario Labour Relations Board also announced it is offering a $100,000 bonus for workers who return to work within six months of the wage freeze.
On Thursday, Mr, Kenney called on businesses to be more inclusive.
“What’s happening is we’re seeing businesses taking advantage, as well as people coming back to work,” he added.
“I think what we’re hearing from the businesses is we want to be a better partner with the government, that we want better opportunities for our employees.”
Mr. Wilson said there’s a good chance the unemployment rate will increase this week.
“We’re going into the week in the lowest level we’ve been in since November 2015,” he warned.
“So if that rate is going to rise, it’s going to be quite hard to keep up.”
The Ontario government has also announced a series of job creation initiatives, including an increase in apprenticeships and a pilot program for the province to hire people with disabilities.
The government says its new plan will see 1.1 million people with developmental disabilities trained and ready to work in the province by the end of 2019.