New data released by Statistics Canada has shown that Ontario’s economy is strengthening, particularly in relation to employment. Although some metrics may fluctuate from month to month, contrasts to the same period last year (or even the last 10+ years) show some emerging trends all businesses should be aware of.
In April 2017, Ontario’s unemployment rate fell to a mere 5.8%; this is down 0.6% from March 2017 and down by 1.1% from April 2016. In fact, 7 of the last 9 months have brought a decline in unemployment rates; nearly 100,000 jobs have also been added during that timeframe.
This has clear benefits for Ontario employers. A lower unemployment rate generally signifies that positions are being filled at a faster pace, and productivity among top industries is rising. To continue driving this trend, Ontario businesses should continue investing in projects that increase the size and skill of their workforce.
Ontario Unemployment Rates Reach Lowest Levels Since 2001
Ontario’s labour market has surpassed expectations over the last year. Compared to April 2016, an additional 86,600 people were actively employed (a bump of 1.2%) and there has been a 15.9% reduction in unemployment. The total size of Ontario’s workforce grew marginally (0.1%) and now provides employment for roughly 4,100 more workers than it did a year ago.
All these factors form a general trend that shows Ontario’s job market heating up. As identified by the Government of Ontario,
“Over the last three years, Ontario’s real GDP growth has outpaced all G7 countries, supported by the government’s strategic investments. Exports and business investments are increasing and the unemployment rate continues to decline.” (source)
This is true; Ontario government funding assists businesses to expand the size and skill of their workforce. Ontario small business grants and loans can provide the incentive employers need to grow. When used intelligently, these programs can support project budgets and lead to improved outcomes.
Top 3 Ontario Small Business Grants to Boost Employment
Although it is ultimately up to employers to boost employment in Ontario, the government provides incentives to help make hiring new employees easier. Some of these Ontario government funding programs include:
Canada-Ontario Job Grant (COJG)
The Canada-Ontario Job Grant (COJG) provides government grants to reduce the cost of third-party training programs. As one of the most popular and widely available grants for Ontario employers to use, COJG can offset the costs of skill enhancements, such as training employees on how to use advanced computing or manufacturing systems.
Businesses may use the training grant to offset up to 50-83% of training costs to a maximum $10,000 per trainee.
Training grants are a helpful way for employers to overcome skills gaps. By reducing the costs of training, businesses will be able to hire more employees (even if they do not have the skills necessary to perform a task), then train them to execute the task efficiently. Funding may be accessed up to twice per year; proactive companies tend to leverage as much funding and training as possible.
Southwestern/Eastern Ontario Development Fund
Alternately, the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund (SWODF) and Eastern Ontario Development Fund (EODF) offer business funding to support large-scale capital investments. The program places a focus on facility expansion and the purchase of new innovative equipment that increases productivity.
Both programs will offer up to 10-15% of a businesses’ eligible investment costs to a maximum $1.5 million in grants. An additional $3.5 million in government loans may be awarded to businesses with total expenses totaling over $10 million.
Increased output often requires the hiring of new employees; this is a main reason why SWODF and EODF use the number of jobs created to evaluate and approve funding applications. Businesses should focus on creating at least 15 new jobs to be approved, however, large funding requests could require additional hires.
Export Market Access (EMA)
The Export Market Access (EMA) program supports Ontario businesses travelling into international markets to participate in trade shows, fairs, and exhibits. This includes support for the development of international marketing materials, product validation, booth rentals, airfare, and a per diem for meals/lodging.
Companies may receive up to 50% of eligible export marketing costs to a maximum $50,000 in small business grants.
By extending market reach, businesses will be able to increase production and employ more Ontarians. Developing an export market strategy and driving international success through trade shows is a proven, sustainable way to grow revenues.
Develop a Proactive Business Development Strategy
Ontario’s unemployment rates can continue to be reduced if businesses continue hiring new staff. This trend is an encouraging sign that business competitiveness is increasing, but businesses must continue to drive sustained growth.
One of the easiest ways to fuel business growth and continue creating employment opportunities is by using government grants and loans. In fact, by developing a plan around how funding will be used, businesses access more funding without being reactive and applying for programs at the spur-of-the-moment.
Download the guide to building a Proactive Funding Plan™ to strengthen your business development strategy.