Charlotte County at high risk for COVID-related economic woes, says APEC

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COVID vulnerable industries, like fish processing, are part of reason Charlotte County is vulnerable. (CBC - image credit)
COVID vulnerable industries, like fish processing, are part of reason Charlotte County is vulnerable. (CBC - image credit)

A report from the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council says that rural areas of the province are at greater risk of economic decline because of COVID-19 19 and Charlotte County may be most vulnerable.

The group says the county, which includes St. Stephen, Saint Andrews and St. George, is at a high risk on its Industry Vulnerability Index, with 42.6 per cent of the labour force working in industries vulnerable to COVID-19.

This compares to 28 per cent for the province as a whole. Charlotte County is the only county listed as high risk in the province.

Patrick Brannon, the report's lead author, said a county's vulnerability is determined based on the vulnerability of industries in the county and the county's reliance on those industries.

Highly vulnerable industries would include fishing, agriculture and tourism.

"They do have lots of aquaculture, fish processing and so in terms of New Brunswick counties, it's the highest and the most vulnerable to potential impacts from COVID," said Brannon.

The report also explores other areas of COVID-19 vulnerability.

The county's low median income means the labour force vulnerability is rated as medium, and the large number of seniors means the health vulnerability is rated as medium.

Long term economic vulnerability is high.

"The income and education levels are relatively low," said Brannon.

"The unemployment is high at the moment, and the population isn't growing very much .. There's not a lot of immigration going into Charlotte County and the natural rate of population births/deaths is negative. The county is also losing some population to other parts of New Brunswick."

Brannon said the report shows that any COVID-19 economic recovery plan policymakers come up with can't just be a one size fits all one.

"They need to understand those realities that not every county and every part of New Brunswick is going to be the same," said Brannon.

"The strategies to help those economies have to be a little bit different based on that structure."

The strongest county in the province is Sunbury County, with a low industry vulnerability, labour force vulnerability and health vulnerability indexes.