Biggest industries in Canada

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April 30, 2020
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Biggest industries in Canada

You probably know that Canada is the second-largest country in the world, and that hockey is the country’s winter sport. Some lesser-known facts about our Northern neighbor are that basketball, the Blackberry, the pacemaker, and IMAX were all invented by Canadians—and that its beautiful national parks are larger than some countries. Canada has the world’s longest coastline, is brimming with natural resources, and is home to many billion-dollar industries that had growing GDPs before COVID-19 turned the world upside down and closed the Canada–U.S. border to nonessential travel.

To dig deeper into Canada's biggest industries, Stacker curated a gallery using data from Statistics Canada. Industries are ranked by 2019 GDP with chained 2012 dollars. Next, we researched each industry to report on the types of jobs in the sector, as well as reviewed current articles to see what was happening in the sector. It will probably come as no surprise that while the industries and their workforces were varied, the one common theme in the story is that they are all being affected by the coronavirus pandemic. While it is devastating to read about how COVID-19 is negatively affecting the economy, we were happy to read about businesses stepping up like Starbucks, which has given away more than 1 million cups of coffee to frontline workers.

Keep reading to learn what the top 20 industries are in Canada, how their GDPs were ascending prior to the coronavirus pandemic, who is working in the industry, and what is happening in the industry today. While the story is about industry and statistics, it is also about making history and resiliency. In the words of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “Canada has always been there to help people who need it.”

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#20. Management of companies and enterprises

- 2019 industry GDP: $9 billion (0.5% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: -20.9%

If you sit on the management team of a business or enterprise, you may hold the position of Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Vice President of Marketing, or Chief Financial Officer. Other jobs that play a key role in management include Operations Manager, Quality Control Manager, and Controller. On April 21, 2020, Peter Tilton, senior vice president of the Royal Bank of Canada, illuminated the major decisions management teams make when talking about how the Royal Bank of Canada is rolling out digital ID verification in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

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#19. Arts, entertainment, and recreation

- 2019 industry GDP: $15 billion (0.8% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +10.8%

An eclectic array of individuals work in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industries. These include publishers and gallery curators to caddies and dance choreographers. Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault announced April 17, 2020, that $500 million was given to Canada's arts, sports, and cultural sectors as they face challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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#18. Other services (except public administration)

- 2019 industry GDP: $38 billion (1.9% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +1.8%

The broad category of other services comprises people who provide intangible services and products. Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds and his wife Blake Lively have donated more than $1 million to COVID-19 relief. In a recent interview in Changing America, he is quoted as saying, “Working in the service industries and working in a grocery store midnight until 8 a.m., I think those jobs taught me more about working in Hollywood than almost anything I've ever done."

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#17. Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting

- 2019 industry GDP: $40 billion (2.0% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +6.8%

Farmers, fishermen, hunters, trappers, and nursery workers are a few of the jobs for people in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industries. The coronavirus pandemic reveals just how important food security and growing food locally is to a nation.

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#16. Utilities

- 2019 industry GDP: $44 billion (2.2% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +7.6%

Utilities are a $44 billion business in Canada, employing electricians, power-plant operators, nuclear-equipment technicians, electrical engineers, gas-plant operators, and water and wastewater treatment plant and system operators. Canadian electricity distribution company Hydro Ottawa recently launched a revolutionary customer-identity solution.

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#15. Accommodation and food services

- 2019 industry GDP: $45 billion (2.3% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +11.5%

Popular jobs in the food service and accommodation industries include waiters and waitresses, cooks, food service managers, cashiers, and food-preparation managers. Other jobs include bartenders, maids and housekeeping cleaners, hosts, and hostesses. A survey published April 2, 2020, noted that more than 800,000 restaurant workers lost their jobs in March.

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GTD Aquitaine // Wikimedia Commons

#14. Administrative and support, waste management, and remediation services

- 2019 industry GDP: $52 billion (2.7% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +2.3%

The $52 billion segment of industries features administrative assistants, office managers, solid waste engineers, environmental health and safety managers, and environmental planners and scientists. Canadian workers in the waste management industry will receive large wage increases thanks to negotiations led by their union.

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#13. Information and cultural industries

- 2019 industry GDP: $64 billion (3.3% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +12.0%

People working in the information and cultural industries would likely have jobs in film and television production, interactive digital media, and music, book, and magazine publishing. A report issued by the Canadian Media Producers Association noted that the Canadian media and entertainment industry could face a $2.5 billion hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

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#12. Transportation and warehousing

- 2019 industry GDP: $89 billion (4.5% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +12.5%

Jobs in the transportation and warehouse industries include dispatch and fleet manager, analyst, inventory, purchasing manager, and supply-chain manager. It was reported on April 17, 2020 that cross-border transportation and logistics are facing serious challenges due to the halt in cross-border travel by the U.S. and Canadian governments.

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#11. Wholesale trade

- 2019 industry GDP: $102 billion (5.2% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +8.4%

Wholesalers are much like middlemen between producers and retail. Jobs in this industry include buyers, operations managers, purchase managers, and customer service representatives. At the end of March, it was reported that Canada’s economy was slowing prior to the coronavirus pandemic, but the wholesale trade increased by 1.2%.

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#10. Retail trade

- 2019 industry GDP: $103 billion (5.2% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +12.4%

There are a plethora of jobs available in retail, including managers, sales associates, cashiers, clerks, and personal shoppers. Although the sales in retail as a whole have declined, the increase in online sales and deliveries have created an uptick in support jobs like operations, accounting, and management.

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DAVE CHAN/AFP // Getty Images

#9. Educational services

- 2019 industry GDP: $104 billion (5.3% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +6.8%

Educational services jobs include administrators as well as principals, teachers, special education teachers, coaches, and tutors. On April 22, 2020, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled a plan worth $9 billion Canadian to bolster educational services that were affected due to the coronavirus pandemic. The plan includes monthly payments of $1,250 Canadian for new graduates and students effective from May to August.

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#8. Professional, scientific, and technical services

- 2019 industry GDP: $118 billion (6.0% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +13.4%

Occupations in the professional, scientific, and technical services sector includes judges, lawyers, auditors, accountants, architects, and scientists. This sector makes up the largest number of self-employed workers, who received the good news that they can apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit program.

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#7. Finance and insurance

- 2019 industry GDP: $131 billion (6.7% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +11.8%

Bankers, wealth managers, insurance brokers, financial analysts, traders, and insurance advisors are some of the high-profile careers in the finance and insurance fields. Canadian insurers will lower auto insurance premiums because many drivers are staying home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Bruce Reeve // Wikimedia Commons

#6. Public administration

- 2019 industry GDP: $133 billion (6.8% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +9.1%

Jobs in public administration range from working in the government, as an education administrator, executive director, director of development, or program director. Jobs such as tax examiners, mayors, city managers, and fundraising managers are pursued by people with degrees in public administration. Electing a public official would be complicated with the current health crisis in Canada and around the world.

[Pictured: Toronoto Mayor John Tory in Toronto at the Good Friday Procession in 2018.]

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#5. Health care and social assistance

- 2019 industry GDP: $140 billion (7.1% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +11.0%

Individuals working in the healthcare and social assistance sector are today’s heroes. They are surgeons, doctors, registered nurses, pharmacists, therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Many companies are honoring frontline workers for their selfless service during the coronavirus pandemic, including Starbucks which has provided more than 1 million free cups of coffee as of April 23.

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#4. Construction

- 2019 industry GDP: $141 billion (7.2% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +0.0%

If you work in construction, you may be a mason, heavy equipment operator, ironworker, plumber, electrician, building engineer, pipefitter, boilermaker, construction manager, or civil engineer. Although Ontario and Quebec have shut down projects due to the coronavirus pandemic, Canada has kept work going on key construction projects.

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Shhewitt // Wikimedia Commons

#3. Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction

- 2019 industry GDP: $147 billion (7.5% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +6.9%

Oil and gas extraction employs service unit operators, derrick operators, roustabouts, petroleum engineers, biomedical engineers, wellhead pumpers, and geological and petroleum technicians. As early as January 2020, the sector had also been declining due to COVID-19 and is now experiencing additional decline because of the global supply war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, as well as diminished demand for oil.

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#2. Manufacturing

- 2019 industry GDP: $201 billion (10.2% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +6.2%

Manufacturing is a large industry with a variety of jobs including welders, electricians, machine operators, production supervisors, and heavy-duty mechanics. The coronavirus pandemic has illuminated that manufacturers may have to address a dwindling workforce by pivoting to automation.

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#1. Real estate, rental and leasing

- 2019 industry GDP: $251 billion (12.7% of Canada's GDP)
- Change since 2015: +9.7%

Jobs in the real estate, rental, and leasing industry include real estate managing brokers, commercial real estate agents, real estate investors, residential appraisers, commercial appraisers, property managers, leasing consultants, foreclosure specialists, and real estate attorneys. As of early April 2020, the booming real estate market in Canada is bracing for a 30% drop due to COVID-19 as open houses are canceled, listings dry up, and buyers stay at home.

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