Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS)

Industrial Summary

Fabricated Metal Products and Machinery

NAICS 3321-3329; 3331-3339

This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing ferrous and non-ferrous metal products (such as hand tools, architectural and structural products, boilers, tanks and shipping containers, springs, wires, bolts and screws) and establishments producing industrial and commercial machinery (used in the production process of various primary, construction, manufacturing and services industries). Production in the industry is evenly split between its two segments: fabricated metal products (49% in 2016) and machinery (51%). Overall, the industry is export intensive as around 55% of its production is shipped to foreign markets. The two segments, however, do not face the same degree of exposure to domestic and foreign economic conditions. Metal fabrication is highly dependent on domestic demand, with 75% of its production sold within the country. In contrast, machinery is far more sensitive to foreign demand, with exports accounting for about 80% of its production, 70% of which are shipped to the United States. Overall, the industry employed 270,100 workers in 2016 (15.9% of total manufacturing employment), with 56% in metal fabrication and 44% in machinery. Employment is mostly concentrated in Ontario (45%), Quebec (25%) and Alberta (11%), and the workforce is primarily composed of men (81%). Key occupations (4-digit NOC) include:

  • Machinists and machining and tooling inspectors (7231)
  • Welders and related machine operators (7237)
  • Supervisors, other mechanical and metal products manufacturing (9226)
  • Labourers in metal fabrication (9612)
  • Other metal products machine operators (9418)
  • Metalworking and forging machine operators (9416)
  • Machining tool operators (9417)
  • Mechanical assemblers and inspectors (9526)
  • Industrial painters, coaters and metal finishing process operators (9536)
  • Assemblers, fabricators and inspectors, industrial electrical motors and transformers (9525)
  • Contractors and supervisors, machining, metal forming, shaping and erecting trades and related occupations (7201)
  • Structural metal and platework fabricators and fitters (7235)
  • Mechanical engineers (2132)
  • Tool and die makers (7232)
  • Mechanical engineering technologists and technicians (2232)

* 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).

The industry primarily relies on business investment in machinery and equipment as well as activity in the construction and manufacturing sectors, which are the largest users of metal products and machinery. Because those two sectors are very sensitive to business cycles, so is the fabricated metals and machinery industry. During the global recession of 2008-2009, production declined by 20%, while employment fell by 37,000 on the heels of the 24,000 jobs that were lost in 2006 and 2007. Stimulated by the economic recovery in North America, and more particularly by the rebound in manufacturing and construction activity, real GDP increased back from 2010 to 2014, returning to its pre-recession level. However, the industry’s output fell again in 2015 and 2016, primarily reflecting weaker construction activity in Canada brought by major investment cutbacks in oil and gas engineering structures due to the collape in oil prices. Employment fell for a fifth consecutive year in 2010, before increasing modestly in 2011 and remaining relatively stable in subsequent years. On average, real GDP and employment in the industry contracted at an annual rate of 1.0% and 1.3% respectively over the period 2007-2016.

Over the projection period, the industry is expected to benefit from the straightening anticipated in manufacturing activity, additional growth in construction activity, and faster growth in business investment into non-residential structures and machinery and equipment in North America. More specifically, demand for fabricated metals and machinery is expected to be driven by the positive outlook for the automotive, aerospace and other transportation equipment industries; 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 investments in public infrastructure from the federal government. Furthermore, after holding back on investment in machinery and equipment (M&E) for years, Canadian businesses are expected to replace or upgrade their existing capital stock in response to the development of new productivity-enhancing technologies, the gradual recovery in energy-related investment, renewed growth in manufacturing activity, and the anticipated slowdown in labour force growth (labour supply). Those factors are projected to result in a substantial rebound in M&E investment in Canada, boosting domestic demand for industrial and commercial machinery. The persistent weakness anticipated in the value of the Canadian dollar, along with faster growth in M&E investment and solid contruction activity in the United States, are also expected to support foreign demand for fabricated metals and machinery. However, the renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and discussions around “Buy America” provisions for instractucture projects represent downside risks 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 1.9% annually. Renewed growth in production is expected to result in a partial recovery in employment, with job creation averaging 0.8% per year. However, a significant part of production growth is expected to be met by additional gains in productivity. Additive manufacturing, which refers to technologies that build three-dimensional objects by adding multiple layers of material, could potentially revolutionize how several fabricated metal products are created, reducing waste in production and improving efficiency. Although many jobs associated with repetitive and routine tasks are expected to be threatened by increased automation, there could be stronger demand for skilled workers who can operate more complex machinery used in the manufacturing process.

Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Fabricated Metal Products and Machinery

Figure showing the annual growth of real GDP and employment over the periods 2007-2016 and 2017-2026 for the industry of Fabricated Metal Products and Machinery . 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 Fabricated Metal Products and Machinery , 2007-2016 and 2017-2026, in Percent
  Real GDP Employment
2007-2016 -1.0 -1.3
2017-2026 1.9 0.8

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


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