Labour Market

The unemployment rates for Northwestern Ontario and other labour market data can be found online from Statistics Canada.

Major industry in the region has historically been resource-based with the forestry business providing an important source of jobs.  In recent times the forestry industry has declined but the discovery of mineral deposits has created a new demand for labour including construction, skilled trades and administration.  In addition, many companies are developing value-added wood products, creating new manufacturing jobs. The region’s emerging and growing industry sectors have been identified in the following areas: Health; Education; Green/Bioenergy; ICT and Biotechnology; tourism, mining and related services.

The regional population sustains a significant service industry which employs people in education, the medical sector, social care, professional services, trades, transportation, retail and food service.   There is a notable demand for medical professionals and people in natural and applied sciences (such as engineers, chemists, biologists) and in skilled trades. 

The nature of agriculture is also changing.  While the number of farms has increased in the past decade, the industry has experienced a shift from full-time to part-time employment with a large percentage of farmers taking additional employment.  

Much of the region has access to high-speed internet and rail, air and highway transportation.  These communications and transportation infrastructures promote self-employment, which is increasing in the region.  Self-employment has many forms including small manufacturing companies, professional service businesses, retail and food services and transportation.  The provincial and federal governments offer programs designed to encourage self-employment and job creation.

Northwestern Ontario labour market data:

  • 6% of Ontario’s 12.2 million population reside in the Northern Ontario region, with 19% of those residents living in Thunder Bay;
  • The Aboriginal population in Northwestern Ontario is growing quickly and is expected to continue to grow over the next 20 years;
  • The Thunder Bay District has the greatest concentration of visible minorities in Northwestern Ontario with 84% of all visible minorities residing in the District for a total of 3,580 individuals;
  • In 2006, 9.6% of the residents in the Thunder Bay District were foreign-born;
  • High levels of out-migration of youth, low levels of in-migration and earlier retirement trends have created a shrinking labour force;
  • Northwestern Ontario was more reliant on public sector employment than Ontario as a whole in 2008;
  • The average weekly wage for all workers was $789 in 2008.

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