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As goes the province, so goes the local community

/ October 11, 2015

As goes the province, so goes the local community

I live and work in an area of Ontario which is perceived to be struggling economically. Major manufacturing left the area many years ago. The senior population is growing. Many are working multiple part-time jobs at minimum wage. The local “living wage” has been determined to be about $15 per hour, for full-time employment. There have been a few studies recently looking at poverty, acknowledging the dire situation of many people, especially children under the age of 18. Economic indicators differ from the province: Percentage of people working is lower, median income is 3% lower, median age is higher by about 7 years, and the senior population is higher (about 40%). The unemployment rate is actually lower, by a percentage point or two (6.9% versus 8.3%, 2011).

Given this context, though, I wondered if the local economy, as reflected in the number of people working in the various occupational (NOC) and industrial (NAICS) sectors, mirrors the provincial picture, or differs. I hypothesised that there might be significant differences. (All data are taken from the 2001, 2006, and 2011 censuses, and the 2011 National Household Survey.)

Overall, the percentage of the population that is working has followed the provincial trend over the last 10 years. The major town in the area (population 22,000) has a lower percentage of the population employed, but still follows the general pattern. (Graph 1)Graph 1: Percentage of population employed

The industrial profile is similar, too (Graph 2). With a few exceptions, the percentages are very similar. The area is still very much aligned with agriculture and resources, hence significantly higher numbers of people work in these. Farming, including beef, dairy, and cash cropping, are about 11 percentage points higher than Ontario. Resources are primarily centred on logging, custom-cut construction-grade limestone, gravel, and similar products. Finance and real estate are lower by about three percentage points. Likewise, business services have been lower (about seven percentage points) in 2001 and 2006, but in 2011 are similar to the province. Combined, though, business services and “other” are about the same total as previous years.Graph 2: Industries

A look at the occupational categories (Graph 3) for the area shows similar profiles with the province. Again, some exceptions are noticeable. Employment in the primary sector continues to be higher than that of Ontario, but has decreased at about the same rate, about 50%. Trades, transportation, and equipment operation has been higher, ranging from nine to four percentage points higher than Ontario. These can be explained, in part, by a drop in manufacturing. Business, finance, and administration differ from four to seven percentage points over the census years. Local, common wisdom suggests the area has more people working in sales and services but the data suggest this sector has been reasonable stable, although in absolute terms it has lost about 400 jobs between 2001 and 2011. Although the area has a higher seniors population (and growing) than the average for Ontario, the health sector has dropped somewhat.Graph 3: Occupations

Further research can be undertaken to determine if certain communities within the study area are changing at different rates, and in which direction – increasing or decreasing. For instance, several occupational sectors in the area’s major town have increased over time; management has increased by 25%, health by 28%, arts and culture by 56%, and social sciences/education/government/religion by 37%. Decreases are in business and finance (-8%), processing/manufacturing/utilities (-29%), and trades and transport (-10%). The actual numbers are small but still significant for the area.

Generally, the local sectors seem to mirror, with some noted exceptions, the provincial profile. Even when, in absolute terms, the total numbers change, the percentages appear to remain reasonably consistent. Although my thesis proved to be wrong, I do find it interesting (and intriguing) that such “stability” has been shown with the local workforce (micro) when compared with the province (macro).

“Economists give their predictions to a digit after the decimal point to show that they have a sense of humor” (Unknown)

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