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

Date: August 11, 2020

Author: Ray D. Bollman

Government mandated health protection measures forced the closure of many businesses with large impacts on employment in both rural and urban areas.  In Ontario there has been a phased reopening of the economy following a regional approach. 

A special issue of “Focus on Rural Ontario” entitled COVID-19 Impact on Rural Employment: Ontario in the Canadian context up to July 2020 highlights the impact on rural Ontario with a comparison to the impact on rural employment in other provinces. This special issue is a follow-up to earlier special issues with data on employment in April, 2020 and May, 2020 and June, 2020.

In this report, we use the same month in the previous year (i.e., in 2019) to calculate the size of the COVID-19 employment impact (or employment gap). In July, the Ontario rural employment gap was less than the COVID-19 impact in urban areas (-2.7% and -7.6%, respectively).

The rural gap of -2.7% is less than one-third the Canada-level gap of -8.3% and much less than the rural gap in Alberta (-15.2%) and in rural Quebec (-14.5%).  Importantly, during the COVID-19 months of March to July, 2020, the rural employment gap has been smaller than the urban employment gap.

In Ontario from June to July, 2020, rural employment increased by 1.1% compared to a 1.6% increase in urban areas. By this measure, rural labour markets were closing the COVID-19 employment gap at a (slightly) slower pace, compared to the pace of employment growth in urban labour markets. This is the reverse of the situation in the previous month when the rural “bounce back” out-paced that of urban areas. 

Large rural employment gaps were reported in the transportation and warehousing sector (-23%), in the professional, scientific and technical services sector (-11%) and in the accommodation and food services sector (-10%).At the other end of the scale, employment in rural construction in each month from March to July, 2020 has been at least 16% above the level of employment in the same month in 2019.

The COVID-19 employment gap has an age and gender dimension.  There were fewer older workers (55-64 and 65 +) employed this year than last but in other age groups employment levels are similar or better than last year.  While for females there had previously been a larger gap than for males in both urban and rural areas during the period from March to June, 2020 by July 2020, the rural male and rural female employment gap was the same (-2.7%).  Notably among rural females 25-54 years of age, 7.9% more were employed in July, 2020 compared to July, 2019 whereas rural females in the 55-64 age range showed a large employment gap of -34%.

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

Bollman 2020 August 7 Rural and small town employment during the COVID-19 era to July, 2020

These charts are an up-date of earlier bundles of charts for employment in April, May and June, 2020.