Surveying and mapping services, 2020
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Surveying and mapping services in Canada faced a 12.0% decline in operating revenue in 2020, down to $2.1 billion. While most businesses in this industry were considered essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, activities in the surveying and mapping services industry have been impacted by developments in the oil and gas extraction industries, as capital expenditures in those industries dropped by nearly 40% in 2020. However, positive developments in residential construction and public infrastructure projects supported surveying and mapping services.
Operating revenue fell in most provinces in 2020, with the exception of Quebec (+3.3%). Nevertheless, Alberta (32.6%) still had the largest share of operating revenue in the surveying and mapping services industry in Canada in 2020. However, this share has declined since 2013, whereas the share of operating revenue has increased elsewhere, including in Ontario (24.0%) and British Columbia (16.4%).
There are two categories of surveying and mapping services: geophysical surveying and mapping services (establishments primarily engaged in collecting, interpreting and mapping geophysical data, including locating and measuring the extent of subsoil resources, such as oil and gas and minerals) and non-geophysical surveying and mapping services (establishments primarily engaged in surveying and mapping the surface of the earth and sea floors, and they can include those providing services related to determining property and boundary lines). The share of non-geophysical services has been growing, making up 71.4% of sales in 2020, compared with 56.5% in 2013.
While the pullback in energy capital expenditures affected the surveying and mapping services industry in 2020, the pandemic led to some changes in everyday operations in this industry. Because of the pandemic, 85% of respondents in this industry reported making changes to their operating methods, with over two-thirds asking some or all employees to work from home, 37% retrofitting the workspace, and a similar share adopting or expanding a contactless business mode. Of the businesses that responded to the survey, 18% reconsidered their business expansion plans because of the economic shock of the pandemic.
The industry's operating expenses (-11.1%) declined at a slower rate than its operating revenue (-12.0%), resulting in a profit margin of 10.4% in 2020. The largest expense item—salaries, wages, commissions and benefits—represented more than half of all total operating expenses (51.6%), at $1.0 billion in 2020.
Positive signals for surveying and mapping services in 2021
Preliminary key economic indicators for the first half of 2021 indicate that activities in the surveying and mapping services industry in Canada are facing better prospects as the Canadian economy recovers. Business conditions in the energy sector have improved, with capital expenditures in the oil and gas extraction industries gradually increasing since the fourth quarter of 2020. Nevertheless, the level of investment in these industries and of private business non-residential outlays in general remains well below pre-pandemic levels. However, investment in new residential construction and renovations continued a strong upward trend in 2021, nearly doubling over the last year and a half. A further positive factor impacting the demand for surveying and mapping services is strengthening public infrastructure capital plans, mainly in the transportation sector.
A complete financial picture of the surveying and mapping services industry for the 2021 reference year will be provided when survey data are collected in 2022.
Note to readers
Data for 2019 have been revised.
Information on the developments in the oil and gas extraction industries, including the decline of nearly 40% in capital expenditures, is from Table 25-10-0054-01.
Information on the developments in residential construction and public infrastructure projects that supported surveying and mapping services is from Table 36-10-0108-01.
Information on the strengthening of public infrastructure capital plans, mainly in the transportation sector, is from Table 34-10-0037-01.
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