The recession may be over, but local employment figures could take a year or more to recover.
“Economists and banks are talking about the recession being over. It may be at that level, but it’s certainly not at the employment and family income levels,” said Don Harloff, executive director at Woolwich Community Services.
WCS tracks poverty and unemployment through its hamper program, which saw record numbers of users last year. So far this year, they’ve seen a 20 per cent increase over last year, and Harloff expects it may be as high as 25 per cent by the end of the year.
They’re also seeing a change in the composition of hamper users. One way the agency classifies its clients is by income source. The number of users who are working full and part time has dropped slightly, but they’re seeing more people on Ontario Works or some type of pension.
Unemployment trends locally are in line with the larger regional and provincial levels. Numbers released Tuesday by Statistics Canada showed the number of people receiving regular Employment Insurance benefits rose 56.6 per cent between September 2008 and September 2009.
In the Kitchener census area, which includes most of Waterloo Region, the number of people on employment insurance rose 117 per cent, to 8,400 in September 2009 from 3,900 in September 2008.
David Dirks, director of employment and income support at the region, said their caseload has increased 31 per cent from October 2008 to October 2009 and he expects that trend to continue.
“We’re anticipating the caseload will grow over the next year,” he said. “We’re going to start to see – and have seen – people who have been working for long periods of time, have been earning a living, now through now fault of their own, the jobs are gone, and they don’t have any assets and they’re coming to us for assistance.”
WCS has seen a corresponding growth in demand for employment services and assistance from their employment counsellors.
“They’re being kept very busy with people coming in looking for resumes, looking for help,” Harloff said.
Nathan Stretch, employment counselor for the Working Centre in Kitchener, who works one day a week at WCS, said he’s been steadily busy since he started six months ago. A lot of the people that he sees are frustrated with their situation.
“A lot of people would really just like their old job back,” he said.
Returning to work will be a long process for these unemployed workers, Harloff suggested. It’s not a matter of being temporarily laid off and waiting to go back to work. In many cases, their jobs no longer exist, and they will be forced to retrain for an entirely different career.
“I think the impact of the recession is going to be felt for some time.”