FINLAYSON: COVID-related job losses concentrated in urban areas… especially Metro Vancouver

The biggest job losses, in absolute terms, have been in Metro Vancouver

A little talked about dimension of the impact of COVID-19 on the provincial labour market is the differing regional employment profiles. Upon inspection, these turn out to be significant.

The biggest job losses, in absolute terms, have been in Metro Vancouver. This is not surprising, since about half of the province’s population lives there. But proportionally, Metro Vancouver has been harder hit by the virus-driven recession than other parts of the province. Employment in Metro Vancouver is still down 12 per cent from February. In comparison, B.C.’s other three other census metropolitan areas – Abbotsford-Mission, Kelowna, and Greater Victoria — have seen more moderate job losses in the range of 5-7 per cent.

Meanwhile, the job numbers for non-metro British Columbia are striking. Collectively, employment in regions of the province other than the four census metropolitan areas has fully recovered since the spring. True, some non-metropolitan local economies have been more affected than others. But in general, smaller cities and rural areas have fared better in terms of job losses, particularly compared the province’s largest urban centre.

The fact that Metro Vancouver has experienced the steepest job losses reflects the region’s industrial and employment mix. Industries hammered hardest by the lockdown of consumer-facing business and the virtual cessation of international travel have an over-sized presence in the lower mainland’s economy relative to non-metropolitan regions as well as the province’s other three census metropolitan areas.

The impacts of no cruise ships, significant job losses in air transportation, no tour operators, the cancellation of all major audience-attended sporting events and concerts, no conventions, shuttered casinos, the reduction in business travel, and a bare trickle of international tourists – all of these are felt most acutely in Metro Vancouver.

The industries that remain fully or partially closed are heavily represented in the City of Vancouver and its surrounding suburbs. Coupled with the shift to remote working – starkly evident in the strange near-emptiness of downtown Vancouver – these trends have delivered a body blow to large segments of the Metro Vancouver economy.

Many businesses in the region’s tourism, travel, event and accommodation sectors have been struggling to survive. And lots of lower mainland retailers have also seen traffic drop off sharply.

On the other hand, manufacturing, forestry, mining, oil and gas, and agriculture have regained all of the jobs lost since February, and then some. These industries are over-represented in regions of B.C. beyond Metro Vancouver.

In addition, it should not be overlooked that the public sector’s economic footprint is often proportionally larger in small communities – and most public sector organizations have not laid off staff since February. Thus, the relative stability of public sector jobs has also supported employment in non-urban areas of the province.

Policy makers should be alive to the comparative strengths and weaknesses of both urban and non-metropolitan economies amid the ongoing COVID-19 saga. It is important to pay attention to the economic health of the industries underpinning different communities and regional economies.

Of interest, several of B.C.’s leading export industries have continued to operate during the pandemic, and these industries are central to the economies of non-metropolitan regions. B.C. needs to build upon the relative resiliency of our export-oriented industries to support the regions where they are based.

In Metro Vancouver, making further headway in regaining lost jobs depends on reopening closed or partially operating sectors as well as the return of international travel, business meetings and conventions. Absent an effective vaccine or herd immunity being achieved, the employment recovery in Metro Vancouver and some other B.C. urban areas is apt to be both sluggish and uneven.

Jock Finlayson is executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Business Council of British Columbia

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jodie Fedun said her brother Jarrett Whitford hasn’t been heard from since early September, and his bank card was last used in Hope. (Submitted/Facebook photo)
Police spot missing Alberta man on video, in Hope

Family have not heard from Jarrett Whitford, 31, since early September

Jordan Naterer, an electrical engineer from Vancouver, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. (Facebook photo)
Search efforts to resume for missing Manning Park hiker; Trudeau speaks on case

PM says he’ll do what he can to ‘nudge’ efforts to find Jordan Naterer, yet has little leverage locally

Seabird Island Cheif Jim Harris confirmed the October 6 exposure event at Seabird Island Dental Clinic resulted in no positive cases for COVID-19.
‘Under control at all times’: No COVID cases in recent exposure at Seabird Island dental office

Chief Jim Harris said protocols in place meant no risk to public, dental clinic staff members

Someone needs a manicure? The She Devil pursues Jvck Wilde in a cinematic music video about struggling with mental illness. (Submitted photo)
Chilliwack hip-hop artist Jvck Wilde produces She Devil music video

Dark, chilling and very cinematic, Wilde produces a gripping video on a tight budget

Sunset Manor, an assisted living facility in Chilliwack, is among five such facilities in the Fraser Health region to have confirmed cases of COVID-19 among staff members, on Oct. 21, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Progress)
Confirmed case of COVID-19 at Chilliwack assisted living facility

Staff members at five Fraser Health care homes have tested positively for coronavirus

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

The Anonymous YVR is an Instagram page that reviews restaurants and other establishments around B.C. based on how well they adhere to COVID-19 rules. (Instagram)
Anonymous Instagram page reviews COVID-19 safety measures at B.C. businesses

There are a number of public health orders various types of establishments must follow to slow virus’s spread

The Vancouver Canucks and Abbotsford’s Jake Virtanen have agreed to a two-year deal with an average annual salary of $2.55 million. (@Canucks Twitter photo)
Abbotsford’s Jake Virtanen, Vancouver Canucks agree to two-year deal

Two sides avoid arbitration, Virtanen will receive average annual salary of $2.55 million

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Swimco announced recently it is shutting all of its stores in Canada, including in Langley. (Swimco website)
Canadian-owned swimsuit chain bankrupt

Swimco had been in creditor protection for several months

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
B.C. records first COVID-19 outbreak at school, six weeks after students return to class

Three cases of the virus have been identified at École de L’Anse-au-sable

Most Read