Briefing Note on the Agricultural Jobs at Risk in Niagara from the COVID-19 Pandemic – April 17, 2020

Home COVID-19Briefing Note on the Agricultural Jobs at Risk in Niagara from the COVID-19 Pandemic – April 17, 2020

As part of NWPB’s ongoing effort to provide updates on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this briefing note outlines the known and potential impacts of the virus on the agriculture industry.

Local agriculture has already begun to feel the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Business closures amid physical distancing practices have had an adverse impact on local floriculture. While the federal government is working to ensure that the flow of international guest workers to Niagara can occur despite quarantine protocols, the pandemic has produced a bottleneck in securing the necessary labour to support crop production.

A recent survey delivered by the Niagara Economic Rapid Response Team reports on the impact of COVID-19 on local employers. When agricultural employers were asked if the COVID-19 pandemic had affected their operations, 86.8% of those who responded to the question reported some impact from the virus. Approximately 78.9% of responding employers stated that they had already lost revenue because of the virus. The breakdown of this revenue loss (estimated between March 1, 2020 and the survey’s data collection period of March 20, 2020 to March 30, 2020) is noted below.[1]

Expected March Revenue Loss for Agricultural Employers

Employers reporting
1 to 25% revenue loss
Employers reporting
26 to 50% revenue loss
Employers reporting
51 to 75% revenue loss
Employers reporting
76 to 100% revenue loss

Despite pressures from COVID-19, data from the March Labour Force Survey noted 600 more people working in agriculture between February 2020 and March 2020. No other sector reported greater employment gains in Niagara. While this may be a positive indicator in the short-term, it remains to be seen if it is one that will continue in future months. With this in mind, it is also important to note that crop production is one of the most essential of all economic activities. Niagara’s agricultural employers support food security at a local level and beyond. As such, the impacts of COVID-19 may different for agriculture than other goods producing industries.

Niagara housed an estimated 3,738 agricultural jobs in the 2019 calendar year, including both full-time and part-time jobs. These jobs represent 2.0% of Niagara’s 2019 total job count.[2] At this time, job data are not able to account for international guest workers employed in Niagara’s agriculture sector. NWPB is working to improve data sources such that all workers are included in overall job counts.

Agricultural Employment – Niagara region, 2019JobsJobs %
Support activities for agriculture and forestry631.7%
Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting Total3,738
Source: EMSI Analyst, 2019.3 dataset, employees

Niagara also housed 1,381 self-employed jobs in agriculture. Self-employed individuals are generally at a greater risk of financial instability amid uncertain economic conditions. These jobs represent 4.3% of total self-employment jobs in Niagara in 2019.

Agricultural Self-Employment- Niagara Region, 2019JobsJobs %
Support activities for agriculture and forestry584.2%
Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting Total1,381
Source: EMSI Analyst, 2019.3 dataset, self-employed

Combining data for employed and self-employment jobs show that Niagara housed 5,119 agriculture jobs in the 2019 calendar year. These jobs represent approximately 2.3% of all jobs, both in traditional employment and self-employment, in Niagara.

Agricultural (Employment and Self-Employment) – Niagara region, 2019JobsJobs %
Support activities for agriculture and forestry1212.4%
Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting Total5,119
Source: EMSI Analyst, 2019.3 dataset, employee and self-employed

These data represent current estimates on total workers in agriculture, recognizing the need to improve data sources such that international guest workers are included in these counts. To that end, these figures show a potential for job impact within agriculture. Given the essential nature of agriculture to overall food security, it is likely that the COVID-19 pandemic will have a different impact on agriculture than it will on other sectors. However, this virus remains an added pressure on a sector that is frequently challenged by forces of nature and difficulty in securing necessary labour.

NWPB will be able to offer additional insight on the agriculture industry with the next update to Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey. These data will be released on May 8, 2020. At that time, NWPB will release an updated briefing note to comment on any notable changes in local employment levels.

What to do in Uncertain Times

The coming months are likely to prove challenging for all Niagara residents. Individuals experiencing employment disruptions can access resources and support from Niagara’s Employment Ontario service providers. Contact information for a service provider near you can be found through this link.

For all other inquiries please contact Vivian Kinnaird.

[1]: These data are derived from the Niagara COVID-19 Business Impact Survey, which was delivered by the Niagara Economic Rapid Response Team. NWPB gratefully acknowledges the efforts of Niagara’s twelve municipalities and the Regional Municipality of Niagara in delivering this survey.

[2]: Job count data from 2019 are estimates based on partial year data.

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