Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS)

Industrial Summary

Primary Metals and Mineral Products

NAICS 3241; 3271-3279; 3311-3315

This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in transforming crude petroleum and coal into intermediate and final products (such as fuels, hydraulic fluids and asphalt), in manufacturing non-metallic mineral products (such as bricks, ceramic, cement and glass), and in smelting and refining primary metals (such as iron, steel, copper or aluminum) for the production of bars, sheets, pipes, tubes or wires. The transformation of primary metals is the largest of the three segments, accounting for 54% of production in 2016, followed by petroleum and coal products (24%) and non-metallic mineral products (22%). The industry exports about 40% of its production. However, within the industry, primary metals are the most exposed to global economic conditions as two-thirds of production are shipped to foreign countries, mostly to the United States which account for 76% of exports. The industry employed 131,200 workers in 2016 (7.7% of total manufacturing employment) with 54% in primary metals, 36% in non-metallic mineral products, and 10% in petroleum and coal products. Employment is concentrated in Ontario (40%) and Quebec (35%), and the workforce is primarily composed of men (84%). Key occupations (4-digit NOC) include:

  • Supervisors, mineral and metal processing (9211) Machine operators, mineral and metal processing (9411)
  • Concrete, clay and stone forming operators (9414) Labourers in mineral and metal processing (9611)
  • Crane operators (7371)
  • Glass forming and finishing machine operators and glass cutters (9413)
  • Inspectors and testers, mineral and metal processing (9415)
  • Central control and process operators, mineral and metal processing (9231)
  • Foundry workers (9412)
  • Machining tool operators (9417)

* 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).

With the largest users of primary metals and mineral products being the manufacturing and construction sectors, the industry generally tracks activity in these two sectors. Over the past ten years, the industry struggled alongside the manufacturing sector, with all three segments recording similar declines in output. A key factor driving the decline in output was the negative impact of the 2008-2009 recession on North American industrial activity. Many of the industry’s products are used as inputs in manufacturing industries such as motor vehicles, trailers and parts, chemical products, and fabricated metals and machinery, and those three industries were hit hard by the recession. More recently, the construction sector has been largely responsible for restraining activity in the industry, as the sharp decline in non-residential investment, particularly in engineering structures related to oil and gas extraction, has reduced demand for the industry products that are used as building materials. On average, real GDP contracted by 1.2% annually over the period 2007-2016, compared to a steeper decline of 2.5% for employment, reflecting the need to improve productivity and competitiveness through significant consolidations and closures of the least productive plants. All of the declines in output and employment occurred during or shortly after the 2008-2009 recession. The tepid pace of growth recorded in the industry in subsequent years left output an employment significantly below their pre-recessions levels.

Over the projection period, renewed growth in the industry is expected to be partly driven by the rebound anticipated in manufacturing activity in Canada, particularly in motor vehicles, trailers and parts, chemical products, and fabricated metals and machinery. Additional growth in construction activity, primarily supported by faster increases in non-residential investment, is also expected to fuel demand for primary metals and mineral products. More specifically, the gradual recovery anticipated in investment related to the development of oil and gas engineering structures; the faster pace of growth projected in the construction of commercial, industrial and institutional buildings; and major investment in public infrastructure from the federal government are all expected to increase the demand for bricks, ceramic, glass, cement, concrete, asphalt, iron, steel, aluminium products, etc. Faster economic growth in the United States and a relatively low Canadian dollar are also expected to stimulate exports of primary metals and mineral products, largely supported by the accelerating pace of growth anticipated in residential and non-residential investment south of the border. However, the renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and discussions around “Buy America” provisions for instractucture projects represent a downside risk to the export outlook. The resulting pace of growth in the industry’s real GDP is projected to return to positive territory over the period 2017-2026, averaging 2.0% annually. Renewed growth in production is expected to result in a modest rebound in employment, with job creation averaging 0.6% per year. Gains in productivity led by modernization of machinery, combined with economies of scale resulting from increased production, are projected to restrain employment growth in the industry.

Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Primary Metals and Mineral Products

Figure showing the annual growth of real GDP and employment over the periods 2007-2016 and 2017-2026 for the industry of Primary Metals and Mineral Products . 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 Primary Metals and Mineral Products , 2007-2016 and 2017-2026, in Percent
  Real GDP Employment
2007-2016 -1.2 -2.5
2017-2026 2.0 0.6

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


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