Job vacancies in Windsor-Sarnia some of the lowest paying in Ontario

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Job seekers pack the Caboto Club in this July 30, 2015 photo.

Job seekers pack the Caboto Club in this July 30, 2015 photo. Tyler Brownbridge / Windsor Star

Employers looking for workers in the Windsor-Sarnia region are offering some of the lowest wages in the province.

The average hourly wage offered for vacant positions during the first quarter of 2017 in Windsor-Sarnia was $16.10 an hour — the second lowest rate in Ontario, according to data recently released by Statistics Canada. The provincial average was $20.70 an hour.

That doesn’t mean the region lacks well-paying jobs, but it’s the low paying ones that are harder to fill, said Michael Batu, assistant professor of economics at the University of Windsor.

“Anywhere you go, there should still be high-paying jobs,” Batu said. “In our case, we still have the (Fiat Chrysler) plant. And we have other manufacturing here that may end up (paying) more than average.”

However, the bulk of vacant jobs and the new ones being created fall on the low-paying end of the spectrum and that pulls the average down, he said.

“It’s not the number, but the quality of the jobs that are being created. It is very likely that the kinds of jobs that are being created in the region are those that are low paying,” Batu said.

He called the Windsor labour market “tight”: there is not an oversupply of workers, nor is unemployment high.

Batu estimates that about 26 per cent of jobs in the Windsor area are in the service sector.

Occupations with large vacancies in Windsor-Sarnia typically pay a lower wage, said Heather Gregg, of Workforce WindsorEssex.

“For example, there are a large number of vacancies within trades, transportation, equipment operators or natural resources and agriculture,” Gregg said. “Where, historically and just generally speaking, those are not occupations that are going to pay a similar wage to those that are in a management-type job.”

According to Statistics Canada the lowest wages offered were in natural resources, agriculture and related production occupations at $11.90 per hour with 1,640 vacancies — or jobs that were unfilled. Sales and service occupations had 2,010 vacancies and offered an average of $13 an hour. The manufacturing and utilities sector followed with 990 vacancies and an offered wage of $13.90 an hour. 

The three sectors offering the lowest wages accounted for 4,640 vacancies — more than 60 per cent of the region’s total.

There were more than 263,000 workers on the payrolls of employers in Windsor-Sarnia and 7,500 job vacancies, said Myriam Hazel, senior economist at Statistics Canada. “So that’s a rather small number, relatively, if you compare it to paid earnings.”

The vacant job numbers reported to Statistics Canada by employers include full and part-time, permanent, temporary, casual and seasonal jobs combined. Overtime, commission, tips and bonuses were not included in the wage calculations.

“Sixteen dollars (an hour) isn’t going to pay the bills,” said Brian Hogan, president of the Windsor and District Labour Council, who called for a higher minimum wage and more unionization to help workers.

“The stats clearly show, if you’re part of a union, you’re working conditions and your rights … and income are better than non-unionized workplaces,” he said.

Hogan said Ontario is the second-least unionized province in Canada.

Job vacancies in Ontario increased 23.9 per cent to 171,000 in the first quarter of 2017 —  the third consecutive year-over-year increase.

Stephen MacKenzie, CEO of the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation, said the region continues to offer a competitive employment and job market matched by low housing prices.

The data about pay offered for vacant jobs doesn’t tell the whole story, he said.

“You can take the data and interpret it one way and say, ‘Oh my goodness, on average, our wages paid are lower. And that’s a bad thing,’” MacKenzie said. “But if you say, wait a minute, our wages might be a little bit lower, but the cost of living is proven to be lower, so the overall quality of life and value for the wage is higher.

“And that’s what I’d hang my hat on.”

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Average hourly wages offered by employers for vacant positions in the first quarter of 2017.

Toronto: $22.60

Ottawa: $21.10

Northwest Ontario: $21.05

Ontario: $20.70

Canada: $20.40

Kitchener-Waterloo-Barrie: $19.70

Northeast Ontario: $18.55

London: $17.80

Kingston-Pembroke: $17.70

Stratford-Bruce Peninsula: $16.80

Hamilton-Niagara Peninsula: $16.55

Windsor-Sarnia: $16.10

Muskoka-Kawarthas: $15.05

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