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 (74% of exports). The industry employed 61,600 workers in 2018 (3.6% of total manufacturing employment), largely concentrated in Ontario (43%) and Quebec (31%), with a workforce predominantly composed of men (67%). Key occupations (4-digit NOC) include:[3]

  • 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)

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 more efficient technologies, such as electronic documents and digital applications. 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, promotional brochures and other paper marketing materials. 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. The use and printing of manifold business forms have 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. In response to lower demand for printed materials, production and employment in the industry continued to decline from 2009 to 2014, before stabilizing from 2015 to 2018. This resulted in net annual declines of 2.3% in real GDP and 4.5% in employment for the entire period 2009-2018. Since its employment peak of 2003, the industry has cut about half of its workforce through major consolidations in an effort to contain costs, increase efficiency, and become more concentrated around large firms.

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 for growth and move into areas where there is robust corporate demand, such as labelling, packaging, commercial screen printing and multi-surface printing. 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. Canada’s largest firms in Quebec and Ontario are capitalizing on this trend with recent acquisitions of smaller firms across the globe and of sophisticated equipment. With the surging demand for digital content in recent years, firms have also the opportunity to change and diversify their business models in order to provide more value-added services, including graphic design, logistics, marketing, communication and online content management services. While those new opportunities are not expected to enable the printing industry to expand significantly over the long term, they could help offset weaker demand for traditional printing. As a result, the stabilization observed in recent years should continue over the period 2019-2028, as real GDP is projected to increase marginally, up by 0.1% annually. This should help mitigate the severity of future employment declines to an annual rate of 1.0%, a much slower pace than in the previous ten years. With the industry shifting from traditional printing techniques to digital printing, firms are expected to spend more on their information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and less on labour. There could be, however, an increased demand for higher-skilled workers to operate the complex newer technologies.

Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Printing and Related Activities

Figure showing the annual average growth rates of real GDP and employment over the periods 2009-2018 and 2019-2028 for the industry of printing and related activities. The data is shown on the table following this figure

Sources: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS industrial projections.

Text Version of Figure Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Printing and Related Activities (%, annual average)
  Real GDP Employment
2009-2018 -2.3 -4.5
2019-2028 0.1 -1.0

Sources: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS industrial projections.

[3]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). Back to text.


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