Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Business, consumer and property services

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.

The services sector is the mainstay of the Canadian economy. Besides accounting for more than two-thirds of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP), business, consumer and property service providers help the entire economy function: businesses and families use them to ensure that their operations succeed and to meet household needs.

The boom in commodities prices will not end the dominance of the services sector anytime soon. Canada’s services-producing industries have outpaced the goods-producing industries in both size and growth for decades, and in 2007 generated 69% of the country’s GDP.

Geography creates some big differences, however. In our resource-rich provinces and territories, such as Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Northwest Territories, services make smaller contributions to the economy, between 50% and 60% of provincial production. In major business and population centres such as Ontario and British Columbia, or in smaller economies such as Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Manitoba, services account for up to 75% of GDP. And with all the activity involved in supporting Canadians in the remote corners of the country, service providers comprise up to 85% of the Yukon and Nunavut economies.

Businesses powering business

Running a business is hard work, and most companies cannot perform every business task themselves. Most rely on outside firms to provide services that are essential to the success and health of their operations.

One of the business world’s most important groups of service providers are the bankers, traders and insurers that provide companies with money to grow and that protect companies’ investments. The finance and insurance industries generated $79 billion in economic activity in 2007: banks accounted for most of this output. Riding low interest rates and robust economic growth, the finance and insurance industry has been one of the fastest-growing areas of the economy, expanding 25% since 2001. It’s also one of the most profitable, earning nearly 27 cents of profit for every dollar of revenue.

Manufacturers need distribution networks, warehouses, wholesalers and drivers to get their goods on store shelves across the country and around the world. The commodities boom and strong manufacturing growth in recent years has propelled strong growth in many of these industries. The wholesale trade industry in particular—the companies that buy goods directly from manufacturers and resell them to individual stores and companies—gained 36%, from $53.2 billion in 2001 to $72.3 billion in 2007. The transportation and warehousing industry advanced about 14% during the same period; although air, rail, water and truck transporters all grew, the air industry grew the fastest. Interestingly, the oil industry’s spectacular growth had little effect on the oil and gas pipeline transportation industries, which saw only slight expansion during this period.

Companies turn to service providers for specialized skills and advice on a broad range of issues. The management, scientific and technical consulting services industry—which earns almost half its revenues in Ontario—posted 15% growth in 2006, earning nearly $11 billion in revenues. Environmental consulting and scientific and technical consulting providers saw revenues rise almost three times as fast as those of management consulting providers from 2004 to 2005.

Outsourcing for the family

With increasingly busy lives, Canadians often turn to the services sector to take care of regular chores and offer a little leisure and entertainment. Firms providing personal services earned $9.1 billion in 2005, up from $8.5 billion in 2004. Within the personal services industry, laundry and dry cleaning companies earned $2.1 billion in 2005, and personal care providers—such as hairdressers, spas and salons accounted for $4.1 billion in earnings.

Leaving the cooking and dishwashing to others has also become more popular for Canadians. From 2003 to 2006, revenues among full-service restaurants rose 17% to $17.9 billion. Pubs, clubs and bars saw a slight drop in revenues over that period.However, spending in shopping malls and stores has grown. Record consumer spending helped the retail trade industry generate $72.9 billion in 2007, up 32% since 2001.

Real estate rides the wave

The real estate industry has been quick to cash in on the consumer spending boom by building or renting more retail space throughout the country. Rising demand for real estate space—both commercial and residential—helped the real estate rental and leasing and property management industries grow 6% in 2005: revenues reached $55.6 billion. While two-thirds of this total was generated in heavily-populated Ontario and Quebec, the fastest growth was seen in Western Canada.

About 42% of revenues in the industry came from the residential sector. Revenues of residential real estate lessors jumped 10% in both 2004 and 2005.

With continued low mortgage rates and steady economic growth, Canadians have remained active home buyers, keeping real estate agents, brokers and appraisers busy buying and selling homes. From 2003 to 2005 their industry’s operating revenue has grown by 37%, reflecting both higher sales volumes and higher prices of real estate.

Salaries in services vary greatly

As a sector based on people serving people—from computer technicians to managers to hoteliers and restaurateurs—the service sector is very labour-intensive. More than three out of four of employed Canadians works in a service capacity.

Earnings in the services sector can vary. The hot housing market does not necessarily translate into large paycheques in the real estate industry. Salaried real estate workers earn an average of $709 per week in 2007—below the service sector average of $732.

Workers in food services and drinking places are the lowest paid workers in the service sector, earning about $294 every week. Retail trade workers aren’t far ahead, pulling in an average of $486 per week, but this depends greatly on the type of store. Convenience store employees made about $378 per week in 2007, and gas station attendants made around $357 per week, whereas salespeople in furniture, electronics and car dealerships earned much more than the retail trade sector average.

The best salaries in the services sector are found in industries requiring specialized knowledge, such as information and culture, finance and insurance, professional, scientific and technical services, public administration, and management. Average weekly earnings in each of these industries in 2007 ranged from $945 to $998.

Even the best-paying service industries cannot compete with average weekly earnings in the goods sector. Workers in the goods sector pulled in an average of $1,235 a week in 2007.