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

The peninsula’s Community Christmas Day Dinner at White Rock Baptist Church – seen here in 2019 – has been cancelled for 2020, because of pandemic-inspired limitations on gatherings. (File photo)
Annual Community Christmas dinner ‘just not possible’ this year

Organizers vow that 40 years-plus Semiahmoo Peninsula tradition will return, post-COVID

Sources volunteers face off at the organization’s ‘Enchanted’ gala – one as a fairy and the other as her magic-mirror reflection – held in 2019. (Tiffany Kwong photo)
‘Rising infections’ prompts move to virtual Sources gala

Silent auction, raffle opens to public at 9 a.m. Oct. 30

This year’s annual Lighted Boat Parade has been cancelled. (File photo)
White Rock’s annual Lighted Boat Parade cancelled

COVID-19 cited as main reason for cancellation of popular winter tradition

Strawberry Hill Hall is being renovated and moved to another location on its existing corner lot in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey’s historic Strawberry Hill Hall being moved a few metres in $1.2M reno project

Childcare spaces coming to corner lot where hall has stood for 111 years

A surveillance camera in a photo posted to the Project Iris page on surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca.
Quality surveillance video helps catch crooks, Surrey Mounties say

Charges laid in connection to break-and-enter in Guildford area

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks Thursday (Oct. 29) during a news conference held at Fraser Health office, in video posted to Facebook. (Photo: Government of British Columbai/Facebook)
COVID-19 ‘disproportionately’ affecting Fraser Health: Henry

Health region has about 75 per cent of B.C.’s active cases

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Most Read