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Monthly estimates of business openings and closures, March 2021

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Released: 2021-06-28

In March 2021, the number of business openings increased by 1.6%, as public health restrictions were less restrictive in many provinces compared with earlier in the year. After rising steadily over the previous three months, the number of business closures edged down 0.7% in March. The number of active businesses in March was 1.3% below the level observed before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decrease in business closures from February to March 2021 was relatively widespread across provinces and territories, with the exception of Yukon, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, where closures increased slightly. The largest decrease in business closures was observed in Alberta, where there were 11.7% (-740) fewer closures than in the previous month.

In Canada, the number of business closures in the first months of 2021 was close to the 2015-to-2019 monthly average, with most provinces and territories having fewer business closures than average. However, they were higher in Ontario and Quebec compared with the 2015-to-2019 monthly average; in March 2021, there were 8.5% more business closures than average in Ontario and 4.5% more than average in Quebec.

Business closures continue to increase in the tourism sector but remain below business openings

In most industries, business closures in March 2021 were consistent with typical monthly fluctuations. A large decrease in the number of business closures since February 2021 was observed in manufacturing (-29.8%; -359), where business closures were at their lowest since January 2015, the earliest month for which the data are available. In contrast, in the tourism sector, the number of business closures continued to increase (+8.5%; +275). This was largely due to more closures in accommodation and food services (+8.5%; +209) relative to the previous month.

Nevertheless, the tourism sector continued to experience an increase in business openings (+2.3%; +99), entirely driven by reopening businesses. In accommodation and food services, 3,160 businesses reopened in March 2021, the highest level observed since July 2020. While in-person dining remained closed in certain regions in Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador in March, public health measures were less restrictive in several other regions throughout the country, allowing businesses to reopen.

The number of active businesses continued to increase in March 2021, albeit at a slow pace. Compared with the pre-pandemic level of February 2020, there were 12,250 fewer businesses in March 2021. In most industries, the number of active businesses remained below the February 2020 level, with the largest gaps observed in arts, entertainment and recreation (-7.2%) and in accommodation and food services (-6.7%), which are the industries most affected by public health restrictions.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Monthly business openings and closures in the business sector, Canada, January 2019 to March 2021, seasonally adjusted series
Monthly business openings and closures in the business sector, Canada, January 2019 to March 2021, seasonally adjusted series

Chart 2  Chart 2: Change in active businesses from February 2020 to March 2021, by industry, seasonally adjusted series
Change in active businesses from February 2020 to March 2021, by industry, seasonally adjusted series

  Note to readers

Every new month of data leads to a revision of the previously released data because of such factors as the seasonal adjustment process and the publication of a new version of the Generic Survey Universe File (or vintage of the Business Register). As a result, estimates may vary when compared with a previous data release.

Openings are defined as businesses with employment in the current month and no employment in the previous month, while closures are defined as businesses with employment in the previous month, but no employment in the current month. Continuing businesses are those with employees in both months, and the active population in any given month is the number of opening and continuing businesses in that month. Reopening businesses are defined as opening businesses that were also active in a previous month (i.e., they closed in a given month and had positive employment in a subsequent month). In contrast, entrants are opening businesses that were not active in a previous month.

A business is defined as an enterprise operating in a particular geography and industry.

The vast majority of businesses operate in one industry and one location or geography. These businesses will be counted once at the national and provincial level in the monthly estimates of openings and closures. For example, a retailer in Windsor, Ontario, will be counted as an active business in the Ontario estimates and once in the national estimates.

Some businesses can have multiple operations, and these can be in different industries and geographies. Such businesses can be counted more than once in the monthly estimates of openings and closures because they are active in multiple industries or geographies. For example, if a retailer has operations in both Alberta and Ontario, it will be counted as an active business in both provinces, but only once at the national level because it represents only one active firm. Similarly, a firm with retail and wholesale operations will be counted in both industries when individual industries are examined. However, when the business sector is examined, the firm counts only once because at that level it represents one firm active in the business sector.

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Amélie Lafrance (343-572-3221;, Economic Analysis Division.

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