01/08/2016 12:15 EST | Updated 01/08/2017 00:12 EST

Ontario gains 35,000 jobs in December; lowers unemployment rate to 6.7 per cent

TORONTO — Ontario was the only province with a growth in employment in December, reporting a net gain of 35,000 jobs to help lower the province's unemployment rate from 6.9 to 6.7 per cent.

Statistics Canada also released the overall job numbers for 2015 today, showing employment in Ontario increased by 81,000 jobs or 1.2 per cent for the year.

Economic Development and Employment Minister Brad Duguid says economists point to the lower dollar and a rising international demand for Ontario exports as two key factors that will spur growth and job creation in 2016.

Duguid says the government will partner with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce on a $350,000 fund to provide grants for clusters of businesses in one geographic area, such as the IT sector in Kitchener-Waterloo or the chemical cluster in Sarnia.

The Progressive Conservatives say the Liberals give taxpayers' money mainly to well-connected and very large companies, instead of focusing on small and medium-sized businesses that create most of the new jobs.

The New Democrats say the Liberals made such a mess of Ontario's electricity sector and have driven energy rates so high, manufacturers are afraid to set up or expand operations despite the advantages of the lower value of the Canadian dollar.

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The Canadian Press

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