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Hamilton Economic Development

The place to be: No. 5 in nation for jobs, wage

Study: City is a premier location for labour

Regina has topped Hamilton — but in the labour market, not on the football field.

A new study ranks Hamilton as one of the top five labour markets in Canada, placing Hamilton as fifth and Regina in the top spot.

In addition, Hamilton is the only eastern Canadian city in the top five, ranked well ahead of Toronto, Kitchener and London.

Prepared by the Bank of Montreal’s economics section, the report ranks cities as labour destinations based on median income, unemployment rate, employment growth and housing costs.

“What really sets Hamilton apart is your lower housing cost,” said economist Robert Kavcic, author of the study. “Your high incomes and low unemployment are also attractive.”

Kavcic’s figures show Hamilton boasting a median income of $69,900 compared to $70,500 in Regina, an average year-to-date unemployment rate of 6.4 per cent compared to 3.5 and average home prices of $381,000 compared to $311,400 in Regina.

However, the study found the city’s employment growth lagging much of the country.

Employment here fell 1.2 per cent over the last year. Regina posted employment gains of 6 per cent over the year.

Kavcic cautioned against putting too much stock in the Hamilton employment number, warning employment figures can swing wildly in smaller markets where changes at one employer can have a major impact.

One factor shaping employment growth in Hamilton, he added, may be those low housing prices because they attract people who live here but work elsewhere.

“Some of what’s happening in Hamilton may be related to people commuting to Toronto,” Kavcic said. “People are finding they can commute into Toronto and enjoy a much better home in Hamilton.”

Filling out the top five labour markets are western powerhouses Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon. Toronto placed ninth, Kitchener tenth and London seventeenth.

The study notes the movement of workers between markets and provinces has hit its highest level in 25 years. The biggest force drawing people from one part of the country to another is the prospect of finding a job.

“While there are winners and losers, a mobile labour force isn’t necessarily a bad thing to the extent that resources are directed to where they are needed most,” Kavcic said in a news release.

The movement of people following jobs also has impacts on the markets they leave and the ones they enter, affecting consumer spending, the housing market, the availability of skilled labour and even the finances of provinces.

The movement of younger people following jobs has the effect of raising the average age in provinces they leave, pushing down tax receipts while increasing demands for health care.

In western Canada, for example, surging population growth pushed retail sales up 6.4 per cent in Alberta and 3.3 per cent in Saskatchewan. At the same time demand for housing in Alberta has sparked a sellers’ market while homebuilding in Saskatchewan has hit a 30-year high.

Wage rates are also affecting the movement of people. The study notes that where wages in Ontario used to average $2 an hour more than in Alberta in the 1990s they are now $4 an hour lower.

Article courtesy of Steve Arnold, The Hamilton Spectator.

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