Despite a slowing national economy, the business activity level in the Windsor area was ranked second-highest in Ontario by Statistics Canada to start 2024.
The level of activity in the Windsor census metropolitan area, which also includes Amherstburg, LaSalle, Tecumseh and Lakeshore, has shown great consistency since last summer by ranking in the top three or four places in Ontario each week.
“Overall, there are especially positive economic conditions here,” said Workforce WindsorEssex CEO Justin Falconer. “We’re doing much better than other communities in weathering the current economic conditions.”
The real-time local business conditions index was launched by Statistics Canada in August 2020. That month is used as the base measurement of 100 on the index with anything below that meaning a decline in activity while a higher number indicates growth.
Statistics Canada takes into consideration such factors as traffic volume, population growth, business closings, retail and wholesale statistics in compiling the real-time index.
Windsor had a measurement of 435.45 for the week of January 15, second only to Kitchener’s 460.17 rating and ahead of London’s 409.17.
The three southern Ontario regions have taken turns interchanging places in the provincial top three since last summer. The three communities were also the only regions to crack the 500-point barrier in Ontario in 2023.
Falconer said southwestern Ontario has been the provincial hotspot for business activity due to the significant population growth that started during the pandemic, the massive investments in manufacturing, particularly the electric automotive sector, and continued growth in technology and health sciences.
“The investments in Windsor and beyond — such as in battery plants, the Gordie Howe bridge, Windsor Assembly and the supply chain — these are stimulating the economy and it’s spilling over into other regions,” Falconer said.
The low point for business activity in the Windsor area last year came in the week of February 13 when the index measured 273.99. By mid-August, the index had surpassed 400 points and has remained above that mark since, with the exception of one week.
“The local business conditions ranking is up 37.5 per cent over the year,” Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce president Rakesh Naidu said. “We were one of the top-performing communities in Canada last year.
“These numbers are a strong indication of where we are. They’re really a key indicator of your region’s economic fundamentals.”
Naidu added the number of active businesses also grew over the first nine months of 2023. The most up-to-date statistics through September show a 7.5- to eight-per-cent increase, to 8,945 businesses.
“Coming out of a pandemic, with high interest rates, high inflation, supply chain issues and labour challenges hasn’t impacted the closure rate,” Naidu said. “We’re still at 4.3 per cent, the same as in 2022, so that’s good to see.”
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While the Windsor CMA’s unemployment rate of 8.1 per cent was the highest in Canada for the month of December, Naidu feels that reflects a pause mostly in the manufacturing sector and a population growth of 10,300 people in 2023.
“There were some slowdowns in manufacturing, with shutdowns for retooling and things being a bit slower for tool and mould shops, while OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) held back some programs for now,” Naidu said. “This is just a pausing phase.
“The current numbers don’t reflect the region and what is coming. We continue to be optimistic about 2024, but we have to keep an eye what’s happening globally with some geopolitical issues that could eventually impact us.”