By Maryanna Lewyckyj
Toronto's jobless rate was higher than the national average last year, a sharp reversal from 2002.
According to figures released yesterday by Statistics Canada, Toronto's unemployment rate averaged 7.7% for 2003, compared to the national average of 7.6% and the Ontario average of 7%.
In 2002, Toronto's jobless rate was 7.4%, while the national average was 7.7% and Ontario's rate was 7.1%.
For all of 2003, a total of 271,000 jobs were created in Canada, including an unexpected spurt of 53,100 jobs last month.
The surprisingly robust December job report gave a further lift to our loonie, which gained 0.58c US yesterday to close at a fresh 101/2-year high of 78.67c US.
However, it was the soaring loonie, along with an outbreak of SARS, that wreaked havoc on Toronto employment in 2003.
"Toronto was most directly affected by SARS and that absolutely hammered our tourism sector," said Douglas Porter, senior economist with BMO Nesbitt Burns.
A 22% jump in the loonie last year also made Toronto a less attractive destination for Americans to visit.
And the high-flying dollar has hurt the manufacturing sector, which has shed 82,000 jobs since November 2002, mostly in Ontario and Quebec.
"There's little doubt that manufacturing is the area that's going to face the greatest challenge in 2004," Porter said. "Almost every other sector is showing solid gains."
After a cool start, Canada's job market caught fire late in the year, with 219,000 of the 271,000 new jobs created in the last four months.
"It's stunning, especially given the fact that gross domestic product growth was modest in the second half," Porter said.
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