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Ontario gained 344,800 jobs in 2021, largest increase on record: Financial Accountability Office of Ontario Report

The Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) released a report that provides an update on Ontario’s labour market performance in 2021, highlights major challenges facing the province’s workers, and includes a brief overview of the impact of the COVID-19 Omicron variant on employment in January 2022.

In 2021, Ontario’s labour market rebounded strongly, adding 344,800 jobs, the largest annual increase on record. This brought employment essentially back to the 2019 pre-pandemic level, following a record drop in 2020. With this rebound, the unemployment rate declined to 8.0 per cent in 2021, down from 9.6 per cent in 2020.

Despite strong overall job growth, the pace of recovery was uneven, with some groups remaining far below their 2019 pre-pandemic employment levels. Employment among young workers and those in low-wage industries with close customer contact, including accommodation and food services and wholesale and retail trade, remained below 2019 levels. In 11 of Ontario’s 16 major cities, employment in 2021 was lower than pre-pandemic levels.

More broadly, lingering effects of the pandemic continue to pose challenges to many workers. Some workers have struggled with unemployment for long periods of time, others are affected by a shift in skill requirements to softer and more advanced technical abilities, and there are hiring difficulties despite record job vacancies, notably in accommodation and food services.

Find our full report on our website, here.

Quick facts:

  • Female workers experienced larger job gains (181,200 or 5.5 per cent) than male workers (163,600 or 4.4 per cent) in 2021.
  • Youth employment (15-24 years) remained 69,800 jobs (or 6.9 per cent) below 2019 pre-pandemic levels. The youth unemployment rate declined from a record 22 per cent in 2020 to a still elevated 15.7 per cent in 2021.
  • Jobs for core‑age workers (25‑54 years) increased by 197,400 (or 4.3 per cent) in 2021, bringing employment slighly above the 2019 pre-pandemic level.
  • Jobs in the service-producing sector grew by 289,000 (5.2 per cent) in 2021. About two-fifths of this growth was driven by industries where jobs can be performed remotely, such as:
    • professional, scientific and technical services (73,700 or 11.1 per cent),
    • public administration (23,800 or 6.2 per cent), and
    • finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing (18,100 or 3.0 per cent).
  • Employment remained below 2019 levels in several industries highly affected by the pandemic, including accommodation and food services (-92,600 or -20.6 per cent), and business, building and other support services (-25,300 or -8.1 per cent).
  • Only five (London, Peterborough, Guelph, Toronto, and Ottawa-Gatineau) of Ontario’s 16 major cities saw employment recover to pre-pandemic levels. 
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