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The Impact of COVID-19 on Rural Employment

Date: May 12, 2020

Governments have forced the closure of many businesses with large impacts on employment in both rural and urban areas.

A special issue of Focus on Rural Ontario entitled COVID-19 Impact on Rural Employment: Ontario in the Canadian context highlights the impact on rural Ontario with a comparison to the impact on rural employment in other provinces.

If we simply look at the change in rural employment from February to April, 2020, the decline in rural Ontario was -7.8% compared to the decline in urban Ontario (-16.0%). Thus, the rural decline in Ontario appears to be half the urban decline in Ontario

However, rural Ontario typically experiences a seasonal increase in employment from March to April. By comparing April 2020 to the average level of employment in April in 2017, 2018 and 2019, we see that the rural employment decline (-10.4% of the “expected” April level in 2020) was quite similar to the urban employment decline (-11.3% of the “expected” April level in 2020). Thus, this measure indicates that the COVID-19 impact on rural employment is about the same as the impact on urban employment.

The special issue of Focus on Rural Ontario shows:

  1. The rural employment change in Ontario compared to the change in rural employment in other provinces è generally, rural employment declined less in Ontario compared to the rural employment decline in other provinces;
  2. The sectors at the Canada-level with the largest employment decline in rural employment:
    • The largest number of jobs were lost in the retail and wholesale trade sector;
    • The largest rate of decline was in accommodation and food services, down 50.1%; and
    • The sector with largest difference between the rural rate of decline and the urban rate of decline was the information, culture and recreation sector (the rural decline of -43.7% was 17.2 percentage points more than the urban decline of -26.6%).

Charts for rural and small town areas (outside centres of 10,000 or more) are available as:

Bollman 2020 May 8 Rural and small town employment during the COVID-19 era to April 2020

Charts for non-metro areas (outside centres of 100,000 or more) are available as:

Bollman 2020 May 8 Non-metro employment in the COVID-19 era to April, 2020