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Rural Economic Recovery Requires Our Support

Since the middle of March this year when the local, provincial and national economies were severely impacted by mandated closings across all of Canada, a heavy level of attention has been focused on the recovery process and the ability of businesses to reopen their operations for many if not all of their pre-pandemic activities.

The impact of the pandemic has been stunning. An economic update released by the federal government on July 8, 2020, estimated that during March and April of this year, 5.5 million Canadians either lost their jobs or had their hours significantly scaled back. Furthermore, it is estimated that national unemployment will average 10 percent in 2020 and decline to 8 percent in 2021, after an historic low of 5.5 percent in January of 2020.

Approximately 3 million Canadians have had their wages and jobs supported through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, a measure that originated from business sector recommendations. The program has been extended and new measures are currently being implemented that will allow the participation of more applicants.

The Guelph-based Rural Ontario Institute (ROI) recently released a study comparing economic indicators in rural areas against urban centres during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, the rural rebound appears slightly faster and more sustained.

Through a highly detailed compilation and analysis of statistics, the ROI determined that from May to June of this year, rural employment has increased by 7.6 percent compared to a 6.3 percent increase in urban centres.

The report also examined the COVID-19 job impact, or gap, by comparing the level of employment in each month of 2020 to 2019. In June, the rural gap was slightly lower at -5.1 percent compared to -9.2 percent in urban centres. A similar trend was apparent for each month in the March to June period.

In our local context, on-going success for the Waterloo Region economic recovery is highly dependent upon cutting the risk of a second wave of COVID-19 and avoiding any further setbacks.

We can start by wearing a mask and moving forward and not back, to past economic challenges. We all inherently need to stay safe and lead by example.

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