Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS)

Industrial Summary

Textile, Clothing, Leather and Furniture

NAICS 3131-3133; 3141-3149; 3151-3159; 3161-3169; 3371-3379

This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing textiles, clothing, leather, and furniture and related products (such as kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities and counters). Furniture and related products is the largest segment, accounting for 64% of production in 2016, followed distantly by textiles (19%) and clothing (17%). Overall, close to 60% of the industry’s production is shipped to foreign countries, mostly to the United States which account for 90% of exports. Clothing is the most export intensive segment (77%), followed by furniture and related products (52%) and textiles (48%). All segments of the industry have also been facing a substantial increase in import penetration in both the Canadian and U.S. markets from low-cost producers, particularly from China. The industry employed 128,900 workers in 2016 (7.6% of total manufacturing employment), with 57% in furniture and related products, 23% in clothing, 18% in textiles, and 3% in leather. Employment is mostly concentrated in Quebec (40%) and Ontario (35%), with men accounting for a slight majority of the workforce (56%). Key occupations (4-digit NOC) include:

  • Furniture and fixture assemblers and inspectors (9532)
  • Industrial sewing machine operators (9446) Supervisors, furniture and fixtures manufacturing (9224)
  • Supervisors, textile, fabric, fur and leather products processing and manufacturing (9217)
  • Furniture finishers and refinishers (9534)
  • Other labourers in processing, manufacturing and utilities (9619)
  • Woodworking machine operators (9437)
  • Weavers, knitters and other fabric making occupations (9442)
  • Industrial designers (2252)
  • Labourers in textile processing (9616)
  • Inspectors and graders, textile, fabric, fur and leather products manufacturing (9447)
  • Textile fibre and yarn, hide and pelt processing machine operators and workers (9441)
  • Cabinetmakers (7272)
  • Fabric, fur and leather cutters (9445)

* 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).

While the industry posted impressive growth during the 1990s, production and employment fell drastically between 2002 and 2010. This reflects various challenges faced by the industry over that period, including the intensification of competition from low-cost producers on the domestic and export markets; the reduction of trade barriers (more particularly the lifting of import quotas on textile, clothing and leather products in 2005); the strong appreciation of the Canadian dollar (which contributed to lower exports and increase imports); and the global recession of 2008-2009. Since 2011, however, production and employment in the industry have stabilized, supported by the positive impact of the U.S. housing recovery on demand for furniture and related products and by the shift in textile production toward more value added products. The recent decline in the value of the Canadian dollar also contributed to increase exports in the industry. On average, real GDP and employment fell at annual rates of 4.2% and 2.8% respectively over the period 2007-2016. Since the early 2000s, the industry has cut about half of its workforce in response to declining production, largely attributable to the growing presence of low-cost producers on the domestic and export markets. For example, between 2002 and 2016, the share of imports in the domestic market increased from 59% to 93% for textiles and clothing and from 37% to 58% for furniture and related products, mostly due to a surge in imports from China. During the same period, Canada’s share in U.S. imports fell from 21% to 8% for furniture and related products and from 4.2% to 1.6% for textiles and clothing.

Over the projection period, the industry is expected to benefit from the persistent weakness anticipated in the value of the Canadian dollar, which makes products manufactured in Canada more competitive relative to imports and contributes to support exports and domestic sales. Stronger growth anticipated in consumer spending in the United States and new market opportunities are also expected to increase foreign demand. For example, the ongoing recovery in new housing investment in the United States should continue to support demand for furniture and related products over the short- to medium-term, while the growing middle class in emerging countries could lead to new business opportunities, particularly for high-end and luxury furniture. Canada also benefits from a unique expertise in developing and producing technical and smart textiles used by industries such as construction, health care, defence and aerospace. That said, while some of the restructuring has forced the industry to move up the value added chain and develop specialized niche products, the penetration of new export markets will remain very challenging in this highly competitive industry. Uncertainty about the renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) represents an additional risk to the export outlook. On the domestic front, the industry will be challenged by the fact that growth in consumer spending on durable and semi-durable goods is projected to weaken progressively due to slower growth in disposable income (resulting from the gradual slowdown in overall employment growth in Canada and massive retirements of baby-boomers). High household debt levels, combined with the gradual increase anticipated in interest rates, are also expected to reduce consumer’s ability to finance new furniture purchases. The decline anticipated in new housing activity in Canada is an additional factor expected to restrain domestic demand for furniture and related products, although this factor should be partly offset by faster growth anticipated in renovation spending. The resulting pace of growth in the industry’s real GDP is projected to average 1.0% annually over the period 2017-2026. Employment, however, is projected to keep declining, down by 0.9% per year. While a more positive outlook for production may help mitigate the severity of future employment declines, the need to increase productivity and lower production costs in this highly competitive industry will continue to put downward pressure on the size of the workforce. As a result, occupations consisting of repetitive and routine tasks should continue to be displaced by automation.

Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Textile, Clothing, Leather and Furniture

Figure showing the annual growth of real GDP and employment over the periods 2007-2016 and 2017-2026 for the industry of Textile, Clothing, Leather and Furniture . 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 Textile, Clothing, Leather and Furniture , 2007-2016 and 2017-2026, in Percent
  Real GDP Employment
2007-2016 -4.2 -2.8
2017-2026 1.0 -0.9

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


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