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Employment services, 2019

Released: 2021-02-09

Operating revenue, employment services

$ 17.1 billion


8.1% increase

(annual change)

The employment services industry group generated $17.1 billion in operating revenue in 2019 (when the pandemic was yet a consideration), up 8.1% from 2018. In 2019, despite easing economic growth in Canada, labour markets continue to tighten, with the lowest unemployment rate (5.7%) since comparable data became available, in 1976, and the strongest employment growth (+2.2%) in 16 years. The employment services industry comprises employment placement agencies and executive search services, temporary help services, and professional employer organizations.

Temporary staffing services generated 47.5% of the total revenue from sales of goods and services in 2019, followed by permanent placements and contract staffing, at 45.3%. As a percentage of total sales, temporary staffing services have been declining over the last three years, while permanent placement and contract staffing services have been steadily growing over the same period. Other sales of goods and services accounted for 7.2% of total sales.

In 2019, operating expenses for the employment services industry rose to $16.3 billion, up 7.5% from 2018. The main expenses for this industry were salaries, wages, commissions and benefits (58.8%) and subcontracts (28.9%). Subcontracts were up 1.6% as a percentage of total operating expenses reflecting the rise in permanent placements and contract staffing.

The majority of sales in the employment services industry are to businesses (88.6%), followed by sales to governments (9.7%). The operating profit margin for the employment services industry rose slightly, to 4.7% in 2019 from 4.2% in 2018.

In 2020, government restrictions, health concerns and physical distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to the closures of many businesses in all sectors; the number of active businesses was down 6.7% in October 2020 compared with February 2020. The unemployment rate jumped to 9.5% in 2020, when 986,400 Canadians lost their jobs. According to the Labour Force Survey, 28.6% of Canadians were teleworking at the end of 2020, which resulted in changes the way businesses operate and their workforce needs. The survey for the reference year 2020 will provide information on the demand for employment services during this unprecedented time.

  Note to readers

Data for 2017 and 2018 have been revised.

Information on the gross domestic product (GDP) was taken from table 36-10-0449-01.

Information about national employment and the unemployment rate was taken from table 14-10-0023-01.

Information on active businesses in Canada was taken from table 33-10-0270-01.

The data for reference year 2019 were collected during spring and summer of 2020. This collection period includes the events and business disruptions around COVID-19 and, in general, response rates have been lower. As a result, there may be larger-than-normal revisions to the data in future releases. For more information on data quality and revisions please refer to Survey 4718 – Annual Survey of Service Industries: Employment Services.

Contact information

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