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 Village of Cumberland is anticipating a municipal tax hike of 4.95 per cent for the coming year. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cumberland expects tax hike of 4.95 per cent

Budget talks are still preliminary as bylaw has to go through council

This is what the area near Lewis Park looked like during flooding in November 2009. File photo
Grant helps Comox Valley Regional District address rising sea level, storm surges

The Comox Valley Regional District, in partnership with K’ómoks First Nation, has… Continue reading

Vanier student Tristan Rendell is helping to organize the discussion on COVID-19 for young people. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Students to talk COVID on Zoom Nov. 4

Young people 12-29 can sign up for virtual discussion

Julia Strobach. File Photo
Nearing seventh anniversary, Valley RCMP continue search for Julia Strobach

“We know that someone has information that will help us locate her.”

Comox author Loraine Hartley, with a few copies of her debut novel, “My Delightfully Dysfunctional Family.” Photo supplied
Comox author pens novel about life in a blended family

Generally speaking, authors write their books, then determine a title. But not… Continue reading

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

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

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP are looking for information about William Mack, last seen in Duncan on Oct. 28. (File photo)
Police searching for missing man last seen near Duncan

William Mack, 72, was seen on Gibbins Road on Oct. 28

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

Oscar-winner was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Most Read