Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS)

Industrial Summary

Postal, Courier, Warehousing and Storage Services

NAICS 4911, 4921-4922, 4931

This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in operating postal services; providing courier and delivery services; and operating general merchandise, refrigerated and other warehousing and storage facilities. Courier and delivery services are the most important of the three segments, accounting for 43% of production and 34% of employment in 2016, compared to 29% and 36% respectively for postal services. Warehousing and storage accounted for the remaining share of production (28%) and employment (30%). Overall, the industry employed 182,400 workers in 2016, mostly concentrated in Ontario (38%), Quebec (22%), Alberta (14%) and British Columbia (13%), with a workforce primarily composed of men (70%). Key occupations (4-digit NOC) include:

  • Letter carriers (1512)
  • Delivery and courier service drivers (7514)
  • Material handlers (7452)
  • Mail, postal and related workers (1511)
  • Shippers and receivers (1521)
  • Couriers, messengers, door-to-door distributors (1513)
  • Supervisors, mail and message distribution occupations (NOC 1214)
  • Supervisors, supply chain, tracking and scheduling co-ordination occupations (1215)
  • Postal and courier services managers (0132)

Output in the industry has been on a downward trend for most of the last decade, primarily due to the growing use of e-mail, electronic billing, online advertising, and direct deposit services by households, businesses and governments, which have displaced large portions of the letter mail market. As a result, output in postal services declined continuously from 2009 to 2016 (postal services are mostly provided by Post Canada). In contrast, output in the other two segments of the industry expanded modestly in the past four years, largely supported by stronger demand for parcel delivery and warehousing services resulting from the growing adoption of e-commerce by households and businesses. However, production gains in courier and delivery services and warehousing and storage services were not strong enough to reverse the significant declines recorded in postal services, leading to negative output growth and anemic employment growth in the industry over the period 2007-2016. On average, real GDP decreased by 0.5% annually, compared to a marginal increase of 0.1% for employment. Positive growth in employment reflects the fact that parcel delivery is more labour intensive than letter mail delivery and has become an increasing part of the industry’s operations.

Over the projection period, renewed growth in the industry’s output is expected to be primarily driven by the increased popularity and further adoption of e-commerce. The pace of growth in real GDP, however, is projected to be relatively modest and significantly below the rate of growth projected for the overall economy. Because e-commerce is largely driven by consumer spending, the weaker pace of growth anticipated in disposable income (resulting from the gradual slowdown in overall employment growth in Canada and massive retirements of baby-boomers) is expected to restrain growth opportunities in the industry, particularly in the longer term. Nevertheless, as the amount of letter mail continues to decline, postal and courier services firms will face increasing pressures to make parcel delivery their key business line, although those firms will also face threats from large e-commerce companies developing their own parcel delivery capabilities. While direct marketing (such as promotional brochures and catalog distribution) is often perceived as another business line with potential to grow, it is most likely that direct marketing will simply not be able to compete with online marketing over the long-term. Indeed, online marketing is more environmentally friendly and enables businesses to better personalize offers to customers by building a profile of their purchasing history and preferences. On average, real GDP in the industry is projected to increase by 0.9% annually over the period 2017-2026. Despite renewed growth in output, employment growth is projected to remain weak, averaging 0.2% per year. Labour costs pose the greatest constraint to job creation and to the competitive sustainability of the industry. For example, in 2016, labour costs and employee benefits accounted for over 70% of Canada Post’s costs of operations, making productivity the only way to increase competitiveness and output. Productivity is projected to pick up over the coming decade, more particularly in the second half of the projection period as 16,000 employees at Canada Post are expected to retire in the next five years, representing an opportunity for the organization to lower its labour costs and restructure its operations.

Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Postal, Courier, Warehousing and Storage Services

Figure showing the annual growth of real GDP and employment over the periods 2007-2016 and 2017-2026 for the industry of Postal, Courier, Warehousing and Storage Services. 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 Postal, Courier, Warehousing and Storage Services, 2007-2016 and 2017-2026, in Percent
  Real GDP Employment
2007-2016 -0.5 0.1
2017-2026 0.9 0.2

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


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