Vital Signs 2018


Unemployment Rate

The unemployment rate measures the percentage of the labour force who are not employed, are available for work and were actively searching for work within the last month.

The labour force is the percentage of the population that is either employed or unemployed. Persons who are both jobless and not actively searching for employment are “out of the labour force”.1

The unemployment rate for the Hamilton CMA in March 2018 was 5.3%, lower than the provincial (5.5%) and national (5.8%) averages2. Over the past few years, Hamilton’s unemployment rate has been among the best in the country – in November 2017, the rate was 4.2%, the second best in the country only behind Quebec City, and the lowest rate since April 20053. The CMA average rate masks wide variances across Hamilton however: the Spectator’s All About Us showed that unemployment rates between neighbourhoods varied from over 16% to under 2.5%4.

Employment Rate

The employment rate measures the percentage of all persons who were employed (worked for pay or profit) during the reference week of the survey5. The employment rate for the Hamilton CMA for March 2018 was 62.4%, higher than the provincial (60.9%) and national (61.7%) averages. More impressively, employment grew by 8.2%, translating to over 32,000 net new jobs6. Neighbourhoods, though, varied from one with 77% employed to four with less than 44% — and one with only 38% — employed.

Labour Force Participation Rate

The labour force participation rate measures the percentage of all persons who were either employed or unemployed (looking for work) in the previous month7.

Hamilton’s labour force participation rate was 65.9%, higher than the provincial average of 64.4%, and similar to the national average of 65.5%8. However, participation rate showed huge disparities between neighbourhoods: several had rates of over 75%, while there were five neighbourhoods with under 50%, the lowest being 44.8%9.

Building Permits

In 2017, the City of Hamilton issued building permits valued at over $1.36 billion, an increase of 29% over 2016 ($1.06 billion), and the highest since 2012 ($1.5 billion). The 2017 upsurge is broad-based: industrial, government/institutional, and residential sectors all saw substantial increases from the year before. Building permit value has exceeded the $1 billion mark for the last six years, compared to 2001 – 2009, when the average annual value was $675 million10.

Number of Jobs by Sector (a measure of the economy’s diversity)

Hamilton continues to have one of Canada’s most diverse economies and 2017 was a strong year for job growth across all sectors. The number of jobs in the Hamilton CMA rose to 416,300, an increase of 8% from 2016 when there were 384,200 jobs. Health care and social services added 8,000 jobs while construction, manufacturing, and retail trade added 5,000 each. Overall, retail trade (65,300) and health care and social services (60,900) are the two largest employment sectors11. Manufacturing is still the third-largest sector, employing 49,100 people in 2017, down from a post-amalgamation maximum of almost 80,000 in 2004.

The following chart shows the change in number of jobs by sector from 2002 – 2017 in the Hamilton CMA.

Source of Municipal Tax Revenue

Revenue for the City of Hamilton comes principally from residential property taxes, non-residential taxes, user fees and transfers from other levels of government. The balance between residential and non-residential property taxes can be used to measure the strength of the commercial and industrial (i.e. non-residential) sectors. In the City of Hamilton in 2016, the non-residential sector share of the municipal tax load is 13%, similar to the previous five years, but down from 14.4% in 200212. The residential share of the municipal tax load in similar municipalities is 17.2%.

Gross Domestic Product

According to Conference Board of Canada, Hamilton’s real gross domestic product advanced by an estimated 3.4 % in 2017, the fastest rate of growth in 17 years. Economic growth was boosted last year by strong gains in several sectors, including primary and utilities, wholesale trade, retail trade, and arts, entertainment, and recreation13

1 Statistics Canada. Dictionary, Census 2016, Labour Force Definitions.
2 Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, March 2018.
3 Workforce Planning Hamilton, Labour Market Snapshot, Q4: 2017.
4 https://www.thespec-reports/census/
5 Statistics Canada. Dictionary, Census 2016, Labour Force Definitions.
6 Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, March 2018
7 Statistics Canada. Dictionary, Census 2016, Labour Force Definitions.
8 Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, March 2018
9 Hamilton Spectator, Special request.
10 City of Hamilton, Economic Development. Community Wellness Indicators.
11 Statistics Canada. CANSIM Tble 282-1030 LFS
12 City of Hamilton. City by the numbers.
13Conference Board of Canada, 2017. Quarterly GDP updates.