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Digital supply and use tables, 2017 to 2020

Released: 2023-07-25

The contribution of the digital economy to total gross domestic product (GDP) trended up from 5.2% ($104 billion) in 2017 to 5.9% ($123 billion) during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The share of the sector in overall jobs followed a similar trend, increasing from 4.0% of total jobs in 2017 to 5.0% in 2020. While the total number of jobs in the digital economy increased from 757,000 in 2017 to 879,000 in 2019, there was a slight decrease to 872,000 in 2020. The economic output of the sector remained stable as the rest of the economy declined in 2020 and employment declined by 0.8%, compared with a drop of 10.4% in the non-digital industries.

Measuring the digital economy: the Canadian digital supply and use tables, 2017 to 2020

Figures on the role of the digital economy are now available from updated Canadian digital supply and use tables (SUTs) for 2017 to 2019, and the newly published 2020 tables. These tables provide an important tool for understanding the impacts of digitization on economic activity. The Canadian digital SUTs present enhanced details on digitally enabling infrastructure and the supply and uses of digital products and digitally ordered and digitally delivered goods and services. The figures are based on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development framework for measuring the digital economy.

The information and communication technology (ICT) sector dominated production in the digital industries, contributing to 5.3% of total GDP in 2020. Retailers and wholesalers operating only online (0.27% of total GDP), digital-only firms providing financial and insurance services (0.14%), and digital intermediary platforms (for example, firms that provide restaurant delivery services) (0.12%) ranked next in contributions.

The software and telecommunications industries made the largest contributions to the digital economy. In 2020, software accounted for 2.6% of GDP and 2.4% (422,000) of jobs. Telecommunications contributed to 1.9% of GDP and 0.7% (121,000) of jobs.

Among the digital industries, the contribution to jobs differed noticeably from the contribution to GDP. The ICT sector contributed 89.4% of the GDP of the digital sector, but a noticeably lower 77.4% of jobs in 2020. This was driven mainly by the telecommunications industry, which made a lower contribution to jobs than to GDP, and conversely by the digital intermediaries and data- and advertising-driven digital platforms, which made a larger contribution to jobs than to GDP. The differing contributions can be seen through the large differences in the GDP-to-jobs ratio of these industries, which ranged from $319,000 of value added per job in telecommunications, to $63,000 for data- and advertising-driven digital platforms, and $33,000 among digital intermediaries.

At 5.9% ($123 billion) of Canadian GDP in 2020, the digital economy ranked below finance and insurance ($147 billion) in relative size. It was slightly above educational services ($117 billion).

Chart 1  Chart 1: Industry shares of gross domestic product, 2020
Industry shares of gross domestic product, 2020

The digital industries accounted for 5.4% ($211 billion) of total gross output in 2020. Digitally-ordered products represented 7.6% ($361 billion) of total supply, while digitally delivered services represented 2.7% ($127 billion) of total supply.

Most digitally ordered products (69.6%) were sourced directly from the supplier, whereas 29.2% were purchased through domestic retailers and wholesalers. Digital intermediary platforms were responsible for the remaining 1.2%, with non-resident platforms having double the activity relative to domestic platforms.

Overall, 8.9% of imports ($62 billion) were digitally ordered, which slightly exceeded the share of digitally ordered goods and services from domestic producers, at 7.5% ($291 billion).

The digital industries provided 78.2% of the domestic supply of digitally delivered products. The share of digitally delivered products in domestic production (2.6%) was lower than its share in imports (2.9%).

While the digital SUTs are only compiled at the Canada level, it is nonetheless possible to use industry level information to derive impacts on production and jobs by province and territory. In 2020, the digital economy made the largest contributions to the economies of Ontario (7.2%), Quebec (6.0%) and British Columbia (5.5%). Its lowest presence was in Nunavut (2.5%) and Saskatchewan (3.2%).

In 2020, following the beginning of the pandemic, the share of the digital economy in provincial GDP progressed in most provinces and territories except for Prince Edward Island, where it remained stable, and Yukon and Nunavut, where it regressed slightly.

In 2020, 83.2% (717,000) of digital economy jobs were concentrated in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. These were also the provinces that had the highest proportions of digital economy jobs: Ontario (5.9%), Quebec (5.0%), and British Columbia (4.8%). The lowest proportions were in Nunavut (0.9%), the Northwest Territories (1.8%), Newfoundland and Labrador (2.4%), and Prince Edward Island (2.4%). Software production in Ontario and Quebec alone accounted for 313,000 jobs.


The digital supply and use tables for 2017 to 2020 are available on request.

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