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Outlook of rural businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic, third quarter 2021

Released: 2021-10-18

As summer approached, with rising vaccination rates and the easing of restrictions, rural Canadian businesses continued to adapt to the effects of the pandemic.

This analysis of the Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, third quarter of 2021, examines the evolving practices of rural businesses during the pandemic and their expectations for the future.

The rising cost of inputs continues to be the most common short-term obstacle

In the third quarter, 45.1% of rural businesses cited the rising cost of inputs as an obstacle over the next three months. The rising cost of inputs has been cited as the most common short-term obstacle since the first quarter of 2021. The next three most common short-term obstacles rural businesses cited in the third quarter were recruiting skilled employees (37.6%), labour force shortages (33.9%) and cost of insurance (33.1%).

The share of rural businesses that anticipated facing no short-term obstacles rose by 9.0 percentage points from the second quarter, to 22.7%.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Top four obstacles for rural businesses over the next three months
Top four obstacles for rural businesses over the next three months

Close to two-thirds of rural businesses in accommodation and food services anticipate labour force shortage to be a difficulty

The share of rural businesses that anticipated difficulties with a labour force shortage increased to 33.9% in the third quarter, up 6.8 percentage points from the previous quarter. The rural accommodation and food services industry had the highest rate of businesses anticipating short-term labour force shortages (64.7%).

A larger share of rural businesses than urban businesses anticipated a labour force shortage for most industries, with the largest differences seen in wholesale trade (20.1 percentage points) and health care and social assistance (18.3 percentage points).

Approximately one-fifth of rural businesses would adopt teleworking after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic

Close to one-tenth (8.9%) of rural businesses reported planning to have all their employees primarily telework post-pandemic, while 12.0% indicated that some of their employees would telework once the pandemic was over. In contrast, a majority of rural businesses (79.1%) anticipated that they would not have any of their employees teleworking post-pandemic.

The rural industry with the highest rate of businesses that would allow employees to primarily telework after the end of the pandemic was real estate, rental and leasing (50.9%).

Chart 2  Chart 2: Percentage of rural businesses that anticipate continuing to primarily telework once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, by industry
Percentage of rural businesses that anticipate continuing to primarily telework once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, by industry

Waste reduction is the most common environmental practice for rural businesses

More than half of rural (58.0%) and urban (60.3%) businesses had implemented environmental practices or had plans to do so within the next 12 months. The most common practices for rural businesses were reducing waste (36.5%), encouraging their employees to adopt environmentally friendly practices (33.2%) and reducing water or energy consumption (26.0%).

  Note to readers

This analysis focuses on businesses in rural areas, using third quarter 2021 results from the Canadian Survey on Business Conditions. The 2016 Census Subdivision Boundary File was used to identify all businesses' census subdivisions (CSD) based on location. Businesses located in CSDs classified as either census metropolitan areas or census agglomerations were classified as urban. All businesses in other locations were classified as rural.

This survey was conducted by Statistics Canada from July 2 to August 6, 2021, to develop an understanding of the current practices of businesses and of their expectations moving forward, together with how the ongoing pandemic has been affecting businesses. When respondents were asked questions pertaining to their expectations over the next three months, that three-month period could range over the period from July 2 to November 6, 2021, depending on when the business responded. Similar date ranges apply to questions pertaining to expectations over the next 12 months.


The full article "Outlook of rural businesses and impacts related to COVID-19, third quarter of 2021" is now available as part of the series StatCan COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better Canada (Catalogue number45280001).

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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