The impact of COVID-19 on rural employment up to December, 2020

Date: January 13, 2021

Author: Ray D. Bollman

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

We are making available another issue 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 December (data are for the week of December 6 to 12) when the second wave was upon us.

Our calculation of the employment gap has been fine-tuned (starting with the November analysis) 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-19 impact. Growth in population brings higher total employment numbers so by adjusting for that we can better isolate COVID-19 recessionary impacts on employment.

The estimated gap in rural employment due to COVID-19 has remained less than in urban areas (in most months). Importantly, the COVID-19 employment gap is continuing to close. In December, the estimated gap due to COVID-19 was -1.7% which represents a job loss of 11 thousand workers.

The trend of a continuing closing of the gap in rural employment due to COVID-19 may be compared to the Canada-level results for December where the trend to a closing of the gap has stalled at a 2.8% gap, equal to the 2.8% gap reported in November 2020.

Ontario’s rural employment gap of -1.7% ranked fifth compared to the gap in the rural areas of other provinces (Alberta -11.2%; Manitoba -6.2%; New Brunswick -2.6%; and Nova Scotia -2.2%).

In absolute terms, Ontario’s gap in the number employed (-11 thousand) ranks second only to the gap in rural Alberta (-35 thousand workers).

Within rural Ontario, the estimated employment gap varies widely across sectors. The sector with the largest gap in number employed is health care and social assistance (a gap of -6 thousand workers which is a -7.7% gap). Five other sectors (see table) reported an employment gap of -4 to -6 thousand workers). Note the high percent gap in the sector of information, culture and recreation (-23%). One in five workers in this sector are not employed.

At the other end of the scale is the on-going growth in rural employment in construction which began in 2019. In December 2020, the calculated difference compared to our baseline of the average for December in 2017 / 2018 / 2019 was +6 thousand workers (a +7.6% difference). Also, employment in the transportation and warehousing sector has been growing in rural areas since September 2020 and the calculated difference in December, relative to our baseline, is also +6 thousand workers (a +18.4% difference).

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 September / October / November, the female employment gap in rural areas was 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 December 2020