TORONTO -- Ontario was the only province reporting a growth in jobs in December, but the government's financial watchdog says one reason unemployment is down is because some people are so discouraged they've given up looking for work.

Ontario added almost 35,000 net new jobs last month, decreasing the unemployment rate from 6.9 to 6.7 per cent -- below the national rate of 7.1 per cent -- but Windsor still has the highest jobless rate in Canada at 9.7 per cent.

Statistics Canada also released the job numbers for all of 2015 Friday, showing employment in Ontario increased by a net 81,000 jobs, or 1.2 per cent, for the year, with gains in full-time work of 143,000 jobs partly offset by losses in part-time.

Ontario's new Financial Accountability Officer, Stephen LeClair, called the 2015 results particularly disappointing.

"The continued decline in Ontario's unemployment rate last year was largely a reflection of weak labour force growth as many Ontarians chose to leave the labour market, often because they have decided to retire, but also because many are discouraged by their job prospects and have quit looking for work altogether," said LeClair.

A recent report from TD Economics pointed 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, said Economic Development and Employment Minister Brad Duguid.

"We're fortunate in Ontario to have a very diverse economy, and I think that's why we're weathering this global economic storm reasonably well," he said. "The report also predicts positive growth in the motor vehicle and auto parts sector."

Duguid will meet in Detroit next week with the leaders of all the major auto manufacturers to talk about securing future investments in Ontario, but he dismissed suggestions the falling loonie is key to getting the province's manufacturing sector back to strength.

"The fact of the matter is a lower dollar helps our exports, and there's no question that it's a boost to much of our manufacturing sector, but our economic policy should not and cannot rely on fluctuating commodities or currencies," said Duguid.

The province also announced Friday it will team up 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 said the Liberals are too quick to give taxpayers' money to well-connected large companies, but should focus on small and medium-sized businesses that create most of the new jobs.

"I think clearly the auditor general's report showing that 96 per cent of these grants go to big businesses, and were often awarded without any application process, raises major concerns for me," said PC economic development critic Monte McNaughton.

"Unfortunately every time there are challenges in Ontario's economy, the Wynne-Liberals' approach is to introduce another government program."

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

"A low dollar should be boosting manufacturing and creating jobs, but instead energy costs are pushing manufacturing out of Ontario, and the sell off of Hydro One is only going to make things worse," said NDP finance critic Catherine Fife.