Statistics on the local unemployment rate are hard to come by.

According to Carole Muise of the Employment Services Centre in Hawkesbury, the federal government includes Prescott-Russell with the rest of Eastern Ontario when it compiles regional unemployment rates.

The Eastern Ontario region includes Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry, Leeds and Grenville, Lanark, Renfrew, and Frontenac, except for the cities of Ottawa and Kingston.

The unemployment rate in that region for December 9, 2018 to January 5, 2019 was 6.3 per cent, up from 5.5 per cent for the November 4 to December 8, 2018 period.

Muise said unemployment rates are traditionally lower than the regional rate in Prescott-Russell, just based on what they hear and see from employers and clients at the centre.

The challenge locally is that there are jobs available, but not enough people to fill the positions.

However, Muise said the situation has improved in recent months.

In early fall, 2018, there were 400 jobs listed as available in the centre’s job bank. As of last week, there were less than 300.

Muise said the labour shortage in the region is not because people don’t want to work. There is a shortage of people who can work due to an aging population, retirements, low birth rate, and young people who generally leave the area and move to larger cities after they finish school.

The Employment Services Centre is working on ways to attract more immigrants to the region as a way of dealing with the labour shortage.

Another thing the centre is trying to do is to encourage employers with vacancies to better promote their advantages to people looking for work.

Muise said recent changes to apprenticeship training policies in Ontario could also help reduce the shortage of labour in skilled trades.

The provincial government is limiting one journey-person to one apprentice for training purposes. The government hopes it will reduce the cost of training new skilled workers and put Ontario in-line with the journeyperson to apprentice ratios in other provinces.

The Employment Services Centre in Hawkesbury is funded by the federal and Ontario governments, along with the United Counties of Prescott and Russell.

It helps job-seekers find work through programs that assist with placing people in a position that fits them. The centre helps employers find workers for positions they need to fill.

According to Statistics Canada, the nationwide unemployment rate in December 2018 was unchanged from November at 5.6 per cent.

Employment in Canada increased by 0.9 per cent in 2018, down from 2.3 per cent in 2017.

Recent employment increases have been charted in Ontario while Québec has seen little change.