Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS)

Industrial Summary

Printing and Related Activities

NAICS 3231

This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in printing and providing related support activities such as pre-press and bindery work. Printing is among the few manufacturing activities in Canada that are not significantly exposed to changes in global economic conditions and in the value of the Canadian dollar as only 10% of production is shipped to foreign countries, mostly to the United States which account for 77% of exports. The industry employed 59,200 workers in 2016 (3.5% of total manufacturing employment), largely concentrated in Ontario (44%) and Quebec (33%), with a workforce predominantly composed of men (64%). Key occupations (4-digit NOC) include:

  • Printing press operators (7381)
  • Graphic designers and illustrators (5241)
  • Supervisors, printing and related occupations (7303)
  • Other labourers in processing, manufacturing and utilities (9619)
  • Binding and finishing machine operators (9473)
  • Camera, platemaking and other prepress occupations (9472)
  • Plateless printing equipment operators (9471)
  • Graphic arts technicians (5223)

* Key occupations for manufacturing industries in general also include: Manufacturing managers (0911); Construction millwrights and industrial mechanics (7311); Material handlers (7452); Shippers and receivers (1521); Transport truck drivers (7511); Industrial engineering and manufacturing technologists and technicians (2233); Industrial electricians (7242); and Industrial and manufacturing engineers (2141).

Production and employment in the industry have been on a declining trend since the early 2000s, primarily reflecting lower demand for printed materials, largely attributable to the transition toward digital media. More specifically, printing has been adversely affected by the increasing use of electronic documents and e-mails. The Internet has pulled readers away from newspapers, magazines and other paper media products. Growing environmental concerns have also incited businesses and consumers to reduce their use of paper, such as printed bills and promotional brochures. E-commerce and e-billing represent lower cost alternatives for businesses looking to reduce their expenditures, while e-readers continue to grow in popularity, reducing demand for conventional printing. Business form printing has been declining for many years, as digital forms are cheaper and easier to track. Recent developments in secure electronic signatures and fillable documents have also contributed to amplify this trend. As a result of lower demand for printed materials, real GDP and employment in the industry fell continuously over the period 2007-2016, declining at an average annual rate of 4.3% and 4.0% respectively. Since its employment peak of 2003, the industry has cut about half of its workforce through major consolidations.

Over the projection period, most of the challenges faced throughout the past decade will continue to be problematic for the industry, as the displacement of print by digital media is projected to keep weighing on printing activities. Structural changes in demand is expected to encourage the industry to look beyond the traditional printing processes and into areas such as labelling and packaging for growth. Examples of new printing technologies include erasable printing, three-dimensional digital printing for packaging, and jetted-material printing in a variety of materials, such as foil, wood, textiles, ceramics, metal and glass. Firms are also expected to change and diversify their business models in order to provide more value-added services, including graphic design, marketing, communication and online content management services. While the persistent weakness anticipated in the value of the Canadian dollar could lead to an expansion of exports, the majority of printing firms are relatively small and oriented toward local and domestic markets, making it difficult for them to penetrate foreign markets. Furthemore, profitability has deteriorated to its lowest point since the recession of 2008-2009 and profit margins are nearing all-time lows. This situation, combined with limited growth prospects, could constrain the industry’s ability to make investments in order to adapt to structural changes in demand. As a result of this very challenging environment, real GDP and employment are projected to keep declining over the period 2017-2026, but at a much slower pace than in the previous ten years, down by 0.2% and 1.4% per year respectively. With the industry shifting from traditional printing techniques to digital printing, firms are expected to spend more on their information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure and less on labour. There could be, however, an increased demand for higher-skilled workers to operate the complex new technology.

Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Printing and Related Activities

Figure showing the annual growth of real GDP and employment over the periods 2007-2016 and 2017-2026 for the industry of Printing and Related Activities. The data is shown on the table following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2017 COPS industrial scenario (projections).

Text Version of Figure Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Printing and Related Activities, 2007-2016 and 2017-2026, in Percent
  Real GDP Employment
2007-2016 -4.3 -4.0
2017-2026 -0.2 -1.4

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2017 COPS industrial scenario (projections).


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