The London-St.Thomas unemployment rate has improved for the fifth month in a row, says Statistics Canada.

The region’s rate dropped to 7.9 per cent in September from 8.3 per cent in August.

But a decline in the size of the region’s labour force is tempering celebrations that any progress has been made.

Raymond David hasn’t worked since a medical condition forced him from a job in  property management.

He says out-of-work Londoners have given up and left the workforce, “I’ve talked to people who say it’s easier just to stay in bed and be depressed rather than go out and search for something you really can’t find.”

The size of London’s labour force shrank to 265,700 in September, that’s down 2,700 people in a month.

Lucille Brennan of the London Unemployment Help Centre says it’s a concern, “It’s a combination of people both leaving the city for work in the west or east, and it’s also people who have given up.”

Still the London Economic Development Corporation believes as the city’s economy turns around, job market adjustments are to be expected.

Kapil Lakhotia of the LEDC says “When we had unemployment rates close to 10 per cent we had a lot of new people entering the labour force. So there is some correction in the market happening to find an equilibrium.”

The declining unemployment rate can also play an important psychological role in drawing people back into the work force.

“Those individuals are probably ready to come back now because they see movement happening in the labour market,” Brennan says.

And Lakhotia adds “Whenever you have an unemployment rate under eight per cent and closer to the provincial average it does have the right optics and builds the right momentum and psyche.”

David agrees that momentum in the right direction is something to be thankful for.

National unemployment also down

Meanwhile, Stats Canada says the Canadian economy created almost 12,000 net new jobs in September as fewer young people looking for work also helped slightly reduce the unemployment rate.

The national unemployment rate was 6.9 per cent for the month, down 0.2 percentage points. It was the first time since December 2008 that it was below seven per cent.

The results came as the number of jobs was up in New Brunswick and down in Saskatchewan.

The number of private sector employees was up, but there were fewer self-employed.

Industries that saw gains included natural resources, agriculture, finance, insurance, real estate and leasing.

There were fewer jobs in manufacturing and public administration.

With files from The Canadian Press.