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

Date: October 21, 2020

Author: Ray D. Bollman

Many businesses have been forced to close or to downsize with large impacts on employment in both rural and urban areas. Although there have been widespread re-openings across rural Ontario, there are major structural differences coming from the impact of COVID-19 on the economy.

A special issue of “Focus on Rural Ontario” entitled COVID-19 Impact on Rural Employment: Ontario in the Canadian context up to September, 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 AprilMay, June, July and August, 2020.

In Ontario from August to September, 2020, rural employment increased by 1.3% compared to a 1.6% increase in urban areas.

Using a simple measure of the employment gap due to COVID-19 (by simply comparing the level of employment in each month in 2020 with the level of employment in the same month of 2019), the employment gap in Ontario has been smaller in rural than in urban areas in each month – contrary to the situation at the Canada-level where the COVID-19 impact on employment has been larger in rural than in urban areas.

In rural Ontario (but not in most provinces), the employment gap due to COVID-19 has been closing in each subsequent month. In September, 2020, the impact of COVID-19 on rural employment was relatively larger (-19.3%) in rural Alberta and was -10.9% in rural Quebec; -9.4% in rural Saskatchewan; and in rural British Columbia, the gap was -7.0%.

In fact, in rural Ontario in September, 2020, the calculated employment gap had closed: September rural employment was 2.5% above the level in September, 2019 -- but was 4% below the level in September, 2018.

This overall calculation hides (too) many structural impacts. For example, there are large rural employment gaps in the sectors of forest, fishing, mining, oil and gas (-38%), business, building and other support services (-38%), educational services (-23%) and health care and social assistance (-10%).

Another structural impact relates to the differential impact on employment of men and women. The employment gap for rural females was larger than the gap for rural males in each age group in September, 2020.

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

Bollman 2020 Rural and small town employment during the COVID-19 era to September, 2020

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