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Largest Industrial Sectors in Canada

12 Dec 2018 • by Natalie Aster

LONDON – Canada is the 2nd largest country worldwide after Russia and the biggest country in the North American region. In spite of large territory, this country has a relatively small population of just about 37 million people. Nevertheless, the standard of living in Canada is pretty high – the country’s life expectancy is one of the highest globally. Besides, Canada ranks 8th on the Human Development Index (HDI) in the world.

Canada has a stable and sustainable economy. The national economy has been slowly recovering after the world’s economic recession of 2008 encouraged by favourable economic reforms and political stability. The country’s unemployment rate has decreased considerably during the recent years (from around 8% in the year 2010 to appr. 6,11% this year) and is set to decline further.

In 2017, the Canadian GDP added 3.05% YoY and totaled some USD 1.65 trillion. Last year, Canada’s GDP per capita was 18th largest in the world.

Canada’s GDP in current prices, 2012-2020 (in USD billion) 

Canada’s GDP in current prices, 2012-2020 (in USD billion)

Today, Canada is one of the wealthiest countries from pole to pole holding the 6th spot along with India and Italy on the list of the wealthiest nations by the value of private financial wealth. In 2018, the projected value of private financial wealth in Canada amounted to USD 5 trillion.

Canada has the third highest total estimated value of natural resources – equal to around USD 33.2 trillion in 2017. The country has sufficient resources of different minerals (e.g., limestone, gypsum, potash, rock salt, etc.), energy minerals (coal, uranium), metals (nickel, zinc, copper, lead), precious metals (platinum, silver, gold). Besides, Canada boasts the third most abundant proven oil deposits in the world. The country is also one of the leading suppliers of natural gas and phosphate on the global arena as well as the third leading exporter of timber.

Here is a list of the key industrial sectors prospering in Canada:


As in other developed countries, Canada’s economy is dominated by the service sector, which grabs a 70% share of the country’s GDP and employs around three-quarters of the country’s population. Within this sector, industries like tourism, retail, business, healthcare, and education make up the biggest portions.


The major employer within the service sector is the retail industry – it employs around 12% of Canadians. The Canadian retail industry is concentrated primarily in a small number of chain-stores gathered together in shopping malls. During the past several years, Canada has witnessed an upturn in the number of big-box stores, for instance, Reals Canadian Superstore, Best Buy, Wal-Mart. This has provoked a reduction in the number of workers in the retail sector and encouraged a shift of retail jobs to suburbs.


Canada has a strong tourism industry. The number of tourists coming to Canada has been increasing during the recent years. Last year, about 31 million international tourists visited the country. The bulk share (around 78%) of foreign visitors come to Canada from the US. Other leading source countries include the UK, China, France, Germany, Australia, Mexico, Japan, amid others.

Contribution of travel and tourism industry to Canada’s GDP over 2016-2017, by type (in CAD billion)

Contribution of travel and tourism industry to Canada’s GDP over 2016-2017, by type (in CAD billion)

Casino gaming is presently the most rapidly-evolving category of the country’s tourism industry. As of 2017, the Canadian casino sector generated revenues of some USD 5.85 billion.

Education & Healthcare

The education and healthcare sectors are the 2 largest of Canada’s service sector. However, both these sectors are strongly influenced by the government. The Canadian healthcare industry demonstrated a healthy growth during the recent decade: in 2007, Canada expended nearly CAD 160 billion in the healthcare sector, whilst in 2017 the expenditures came to about CAD 242 billion.

Business Services

The business services sector (comprising finance, real estate, and communications) also command a substantial share of the country’s service sector and is mainly concentrated in the large urban centres like Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, etc. It is also an important employer in Canada. The contribution of this sector to the national economy has been growing at a swift pace during recent years.


Nowadays, Canada is recognised as “energy superpower” owing to its rich natural resources and small population. The country has the third biggest proven reserves of petroleum and is the fourth leading exporter of petroleum and natural gas in the world. Most ample oil and gas deposits in Canada are located in Alberta and Saskatchewan and are also found in a substantial amount in Eastcoast Offshore, Manitoba, and British Columbia.

The Canadian oil & gas industry experienced a stable growth during 2010-2017. In 2017, the domestic crude oil production registered a heathy YoY increase and reached around 236.3 million metric tons. In the same year, the country’s exports of oil totaled nearly 4.2 million barrels per day.

The oil & gas industry together with associated manufacturing provided a total of appr. CAD 112.3 billion to the country’s real GDP in 2016.

Contribution of oil & gas industry and associated manufacturing to Canada’s real GDP during 2010-2016 (in CAD billion)

Contribution of oil & gas industry and associated manufacturing to Canada’s real GDP during 2010-2016 (in CAD billion)


The primary sector plays an essential role in the Canadian economy, which is unusual for a developed country. The forestry and logging industry is one of the most important in this sector. With around 42% of the country’s land acreage covered by forests, Canada accounts for appr. 10% of the world’s total forest land. Presently, Canada ranks the second leading exporter of forestry goods in the world.

Last year, the domestic forestry and logging industry contributed over CAD 4.33 billion to the Canadian GDP.  

Contribution of forestry and logging industry to Canada’s GDP during 2012-2017 (in CAD billion)

Contribution of forestry and logging industry to Canada’s GDP during 2012-2017 (in CAD billion)


Although manufacturing drastically declined as a percentage of the country’s GDP in Canada (from 24.3% in the 1960s to 10.37% in the year 2017), domestic manufacturing volumes during this period managed to keep pace with the overall growth in the volume index of GDP. The country’s manufacturing sector was heavily affected by the world’s financial crisis of the years 2007-2008.

Automotive Sector

The automotive industry is the largest one in the Canadian manufacturing sector. The country ranks in the world’s top 10 light vehicles producers. More than 90% of vehicles manufactured in Canada go for exports as well as around 60% of automotive parts produced here. Canada is among the world’s largest exporters of automobiles owing to its position within NAFTA. As of 2016, the country’s exports of vehicles totaled some USD 48.8 billion.

The automotive sector is of vital importance for the national economy. It contributes nearly USD 19 billion to the country’s GDP and employs over 125 thousand people directly and additionally 400 thousand people in dealership networks and aftermarket services.

The leading equipment manufacturers and automakers (including Toyota, Honda, General Motors, Ford, etc.) and prominent bus and truck manufacturers (Volvo Bus, Hino, Motor Coach Industries, etc.) operate in Canada. Moreover, a great number of OEMs are active in the country, among which Aisin Seiki, Johnson Controls, and Continental. Besides, there are many companies (e.g. Tesco, Hitachi, Alstom, etc.) operating in various automotive industry sub-sectors such as metalworking machinery, agricultural and forestry machinery, mining and drilling equipment, and some other.


Although Canada witnessed a decline in the share of the population engaged in agricultural activities during the 20th century, the agricultural industry still plays a vital role in the country’s economy and receives substantial support from the government. In 2016, the agricultural sector provided about 2.3 million Canadians with stable and well-paid jobs – it is equal to nearly 12.5% of Canada’s employment. In the same year, the sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP was around 6.7%.

Canada ranks one of the top suppliers of agricultural products on the global scale especially wheat and other grains. As of 2016, the domestic wheat production experienced a healthy upturn and came to the volume of 32 million metric tons. However, it declined slightly in 2017 and totaled around 30.5 million metric tons. This year, the country’s wheat output is poised to reach the mark of 31 million metric tons.

Canada’s wheat production volume over 2010-2018* (in million metric tons)

Canada’s wheat production volume over 2010-2018* (in million metric tons)

In the year 2017, the total value of Canada’s wheat exports exceeded CAD 6.42 billion. The US and Asian countries are the top importers of the Canadian grains.


With the longest coastline in the world, Canada has the 8th biggest commercial fishing and seafood industry across the globe. The country possesses abundant sources of different species of fish and seafood. Fishing activities in the country are concentrated on the Atlantic coast from Nunavut down to the border with the US. A great share of fish harvesting in Canada also comes from the British Columbia and the Great Lakes. The fishing industry employs over 72 thousand people in Canada.

Canada is amid the leading suppliers of fish and seafood to international markets. About 75% of the Canadian fish and seafood industry output are exported to more than 130 countries. As of 2016, Canada’s overall exports of fish and seafood products amounted to USD 6.8 billion.

Top 5 Canada’s seafood exports, 2016 (in CAD million)

Top 5 Canada’s seafood exports, 2016 (in CAD million)

The US commands the largest chunk (appr. 64%) of Canada’s fish and seafood exports. Other important export destinations comprise China, the EU, Japan, and Hong Kong, amid others.

© MarketPublishers.com, 2018

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