Experts upbeat about local employment opportunities this year

George Mathewson

The local economy will generate strong employment numbers this year as companies compete for available workers, local job experts say.

“Based on what we are hearing from local employers, we are very optimistic about what 2020 has in store for Sarnia-Lambton,” said Bruce Hein, franchise owner of the Sarnia Express Employment Professionals.

“Locally, we anticipate hiring will be strong, wages will continue to climb, and benefits will stay competitive as the war for talent continues.”

Hein’s assessment follows a nationwide Express survey of 585 business owners, decision makers, and human resource professionals. Only 20% expect a recession in the next two years.

The traits employers are looking for most when hiring are a good work ethic, integrity and attitude, the survey found.

The local unemployment rate stood at 6.8% in October, according to the Sarnia Lambton Workforce Development Board.

The board is conducting a hiring survey of local employers and expects to have a clearer picture in February of what lies ahead, said executive director Laura Greaves.

But the signs are good, she added.

“Things look pretty positive from our perspective. We’re still hearing from employers that they have a lot of positions to fill. There are opportunities for job seekers.”

Hiring is especially strong among skilled trades and that will continue this year, Greaves added.

Many local workers have reached retirement age, local industry is planning maintenance shutdowns, and several big-ticket regional construction projects are underway.

One of them, the $2.2-billion expansion at Nova Chemical, is just beginning the third year of a four-year project in St. Clair Township.

The largest number of jobs in Sarnia-Lambton continues to be in health care and social assistance, followed by manufacturing and retail trade, the board says.