Youth unemployment drops in Oshawa

Youth unemployment in Oshawa has dropped.

Unemployment for people between the ages 19 to 24 has dropped to 7.7 per cent. It was 16 per cent just this October.

John Aker, an Oshawa regional and city councillor, announced the findings at a City Council meeting March 19.

The drop is attributed to a national downward trend as well as the $614 million in building permits Oshawa issued in 2017, Aker says.

About 15 major building projects have been started in Oshawa like the student housing apartment on Simcoe Street near the north campus of Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Aker says.

“The economy is firing on all cylinders,” Aker says. “We got to keep driving.”

Aker is optimistic the trend will continue downward despite the decrease being attributed to short-term jobs because General Motors (GM) is planning on adding another shift.

“We have one shift working what’s called scheduled overtime, which means six days a week,” Aker says. “They’re (GM) hiring for a second shift.”

“They’re currently producing 30,000 a year on one shift,” Aker says. “They want to produce 60,000 trucks in total.”

There have been rumours going around about GM’s commitment to staying in Oshawa, but Aker isn’t worried.

He says GM factories in the United States will be temporarily shutting down for equipment updates, leaving Oshawa to pick up the slack.

“One will go down, retool, start building trucks. The other will go down, retool, start building trucks,” Aker says. “So, we’ll build the trucks here for them.”

“We’re their backup,” Aker says.

Production will pick up for 11 months to a year, giving GM in Oshawa an opportunity to prove itself, Aker says.

“Someone could say that at the end of two years we may not be building trucks, but I think we’re going to be,” Aker says.

With the Canadian dollar dropping to 76 cents, and according to Aker, on its way to 65 cents, it’ll be cheaper to build trucks in Canada compared to the U.S.

“What we build will be unbelievably cheap for them,” Aker says.

GM added two new trucks, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, to its assembly line in February, Aker says, but the automaker decided not to do so with any fanfare.

“When General Motors started building trucks here there was no announcement, there was no opening,” Aker says. “They don’t want to offend the president of the United States.”

Oshawa mayor John Henry says the drop in youth unemployment can be attributed to the progress that’s been made to increase jobs in Oshawa.

The Oshawa Centre (OC) remodelling added 1,000 jobs alone, Henry says.

Henry says youth employment was what he ran on for his campaign. He wanted to make it easier for businesses to come to Oshawa in order to create jobs.

“The companies that were coming out here to establish themselves didn’t go through the red tape and delays so that you could attract great opportunities,” Henry says.

While the remodelling of the OC was a success, what’s really going to make a difference is the redevelopment of downtown, he says.

“We’ve capitalized on that and we’re very forward thinking and that’s paid off,” Henry says.