COVID-19 impact on rural employment in Ontario to February, 2021

Date: March 23, 2021

Author: Ray Bollman

COVID-19 Impact on Rural Employment: Ontario in the Canadian context up to February, 2021 highlights the impact on rural Ontario with a comparison to the impact on rural employment in other provinces and to large urban centres within Ontario.

This is a continuation of our special series of “Focus on Rural Ontario” with extensive tables related to economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as reflected in employment statistics. This release presents data collected by Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey during the week of February 14th to 20th 2021.

Factsheet Highlights


In February 2021, the rural employment gap had declined to -1.6% which equaled the small gap in December 2020 and is the smallest employment gap since the onset of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 impact on employment in rural areas has been (generally) decreasing over time.

The rural employment gap has been (slightly) less than the urban employment gap for most months during the period from March 2020 to February 2021. The rural and urban employment gaps were essentially the same in the August to November 2020 period but, over the last three months of regional closures during the second wave, Ontario’s larger urban centres (LUCs) saw larger drop-offs in employment than in rural areas.

The pattern of strong impacts concentrated in specific sectors continued. In February 2021 in rural Ontario, the sectors with the largest percent employment gap were: information, culture and recreation (-83%); accommodation and food services (-33%); and business, building and other support services (-26%).

In February 2021 in rural Ontario, the sectors with the largest gap in number employedwere the retail and wholesale sector (-11 thousand jobs), the information, culture and recreation sector (-11 thousand jobs) and the accommodation and food services sector (-9 thousand jobs).


The she-cession continues. Within rural Ontario, the job gap for females is larger than the job gap for males in most months for most age groups. When rural females are compared to urban females, rural females had a larger job gap than urban females in September, October and November 2020 and in January and February 2021.