COVID-19 impact on rural employment in Ontario to November, 2020

Date: December 22, 2020

Author: Ray Bollman

COVID-19 Impact on Rural Employment: Ontario in the Canadian context up to November, 2020 highlights the impact on rural Ontario with a comparison to the impact on rural employment in other provinces.

We are making available another in 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 takes the data analysis up to the end of November when the second wave was upon us, but before more restrictive widespread shutdowns were widely mandated. Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey for November 2020 was enumerated during the week of November 8 to 14, which was before some business re-closures were announced later in November and before mid-December lockdowns.

Discover highlighted areas of interest in the new infographic here.

Our calculation of the employment gap has been fine-tuned in order to reflect the impact of population change over the time period in which we compare change in the numbers employed. This is so we can better discern the Covid impact.  Growth in population brings higher total employment numbers so by adjusting for that we can better isolate covid-19 recessionary impacts on employment.  Doing that changes the trajectory we have been documenting over the summer and fall when the numbers painted a rosier overall picture of the rural employment trajectory as compared to the urban trajectory than the latest fact sheet reveals. 

In November 2020, the COVID-19 impact on rural employment in Ontario is estimated be -3.8% which represents a job loss of 24 thousand workers. The percentage gap is the same as in urban Ontario.  Notably, this gap has been closing since July 2020.

Ontario’s rural employment gap of -3.8% ranks third behind Manitoba’s rural employment gap of -13.1% and Alberta’s rural employment gap of -10.1% gap.  However, in absolute terms Ontario’s gap in the number employed (-24 thousand) ranks second only to the gap in rural Alberta (-32 thousand workers).

Within rural Ontario, the estimated employment gap varies widely across sectors. The sector with the largest percent gap in employment is the sector that includes forestry, fishing, mining, oil and gas. The sector with the largest gap in number employed is health care and social services’

At the other end of the scale is the on-going growth in rural employment in construction which began in 2019. In November, the calculated “gap” was +10 thousand workers (a +11.8% difference) compared to the baseline of the average for November in 2017 / 2018 / 2019.  This is not really a gap at all.

Also, in Ontario’s rural areas, the employment gap for females has been larger than for males in each age group in almost every month since February 2020. In addition, in recent months, the female employment gap in rural areas has become larger than the female employment gap in urban areas. 

Canada-level charts for rural and small town areas (outside centres of 10,000 or more) are available as supplementary charts at: Bollman 2020 Rural and small town employment during the COVID-19 era to November 2020