Does Comparison of Shifting Occupation Trends in Urban and Rural Employment Tell Us Anything?

Date: December 13, 2019

​The Rural Ontario Institute is publishing Fact Sheets that look at how the share of employment in five occupational skill groups is shifting in selected industry sectors between 2006 and 2016. We contrast the data in three categories of geography: those census divisions with populations entirely in census metropolitan areas; those census divisions whose population is both in metropolitan areas as well as having people in areas outside the commuting zone of large cities or “partially non-metroplitan areas”; and those whose population is wholly non-metropolitan.  

Some sectors, such as manufacturing, show very similar proportions in occupation skill groups between the rural and more urban geographies. However, we also see that in urban areas, the sector is shifting toward a higher proportion of university degree employees more quickly than rural areas, whereas a parallel shift to more college degrees is more pronounced in the rural manufacturing workforce.

What the data doesn’t tell us is if this is because the nature of the jobs are really changing or whether factors such as the education levels of the available workforce in these geographies are at play. A classic case where data analysis answers some questions while raising as many more. Nonetheless, what is clear is that each sector has its own dynamics and blanket conclusions should be tempered by this reality. For example, the Health and Social Services sector show virtually identical changes in the proportions in each skill group regardless of geography, suggesting that credential requirements are applied consistently by employers in this sector. 

Employment by occupation group Fact Sheets are here: 

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting



Wholesale Trade

Professional, Scientific and Professional Services

Health Care and Social Assistance

Detailed tables of 20 or so sectors in the Ontario economy were analyzed and are being made available in downloadable Excel table format for those keen on exploring the data for themselves.   

As always, we welcome questions, comments and discussion of the Fact Sheets, so please get in touch. It is important for us to be able to communicate the value of ROI providing the information in our Fact Sheet series so we would greatly appreciate you dropping us a short note saying how you are utilizing the information. Please send any comments, criticisms and/or feedback to

Focus on Rural Ontario Fact Sheets are based on Statistics Canada data and are part of a long-running series that profile key facts and figures on topics such as population change, immigration/migration patterns, youth employment and economic trends. All Focus on Rural Ontario Fact Sheets are available for download at