There are dark clouds and silver linings for the Muskoka business community according to a recent study.
Last week the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) released the sixth annual Ontario Economic Report providing regional and sector-specific data on business confidence, policy priorities, and economic indicators, which together provide a unique view on the hurdles ahead.
According to the study, in Ontario, labour shortages, global supply chain disruptions and inflation are all being increasingly felt at the consumer level.
“Ontario began to see some positive momentum in 2021 thanks to progress on vaccines and reopening. Business confidence, GDP, and employment growth are trending upwards after record lows in 2020. However, the road ahead remains uncertain for businesses and households as labour shortages, supply chain disruptions, and inflation are hitting home,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO, OCC. “A staggering 62 per cent of sectors are facing labour shortages in Ontario and expect to continue facing them over the next year. This is having real-life consequences on the cost of living, service delivery, and product availability.”
Closer to home, Norah Fountain, Executive Director of the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce, said many of the provincial trends are reflected locally but there are reasons for optimism.
“I don’t want to sugarcoat anything but there is some good news,” says Fountain.
The jobless rate in Muskoka dropped significantly in 2021 (from 9.3% in 2020 to 7.5% in 2021) and currently sits below the provincial average. That number is expected to drop to 5.4% this year – which is lower than the pre-pandemic jobless rate of 6.3%.
Employment growth in Muskoka for 2021 was 2.4% but expected to be 3.5% in 2022 as tourism picks up. Fifty-nine percent of businesses in Muskoka expect entrepreneurship to rebound after COVID-19.
Of particular note, says Fountain, is that 93% of businesses in Muskoka feel that putting money into employee health and well-being is a good investment. That number is higher than most other regions of the province.
“Many businesses in Muskoka want to do more for their employee’s wellbeing and I’m really pleased to see we’re leading the province in that regard,” she says.
Some 55 percent of those surveyed in Muskoka feel good about the future of their own business, which is typical of the province. However, the confidence rating for the Kawartha-Muskoka region on the whole now sits at just 26 percent, below the provincial average.
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