Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS)

Industrial Summary

Legal, Accounting, Consulting and Other Professional Services

NAICS 5411; 5412; 5416; 5418; 5419

This industry comprises establishments that provide highly specialized business services. It is composed of five segments: legal services (27% of production and 24% of employment in 2016); accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services (25% of production and 28% of employment); management, scientific and technical consulting (26% and 21%); advertising and public relations (9% and 13%); and other professional, scientific and technical services such as photographic, translation and veterinary services (12% and 14%). Overall, the industry employed 651,400 workers in 2016, mostly concentrated in Ontario (43%), Quebec (21%), British Columbia (14%) and Alberta (13%). The workforce is characterized by a majority of women (59%), a high level of education, and a large proportion of self-employed (37%). Given the wide variety of activities, key occupations (4-digit NOC) include a mix of:

  • Financial auditors and accountants (1111)
  • Lawyers and Quebec notaries (4112)
  • Professional occupations in business management consulting (1122)
  • Accounting technicians and bookkeepers (1311)
  • Legal administrative assistants (1242)
  • Paralegal and related occupations (4211)
  • Professional occupations in advertising,
  • marketing and public relations (1123)
  • Photographers (5221)
  • Animal health technologists and veterinary technicians (NOC 3213)
  • Business development officers and marketing researchers and consultants (4163)
  • Translators, terminologists, interpreters (5121)
  • Natural and applied science policy researchers, consultants and program officers (4161)
  • Veterinarians (3114)
  • Other business services managers (0125)
  • Graphic designers and illustrators (5241)
  • Advertising, marketing and public relations managers (0124)
  • Financial managers (0111)
  • Mathematicians, statisticians and actuaries (2161)
  • Agricultural representatives, consultants and specialists (2123)
  • Sheriffs and bailiffs (4421)
  • Forestry professionals (2122)

The industry strongly relies on the performance of the domestic economy and is largely driven by business activities and government expenditures. Corporate profitability is also a key driver of the industry as higher profits mean more discretionary income to spend on legal, consulting and advertising services, often perceived as non-essential activities. Although the industry is mostly oriented toward the domestic market, it is also sensitive to foreign economic conditions since the clientele comes from various businesses, some of which are heavily reliant on foreign demand. With the exception of accounting services that are less sensitive to cyclical fluctuations in economic conditions, the other segments of the industry were severely affected by the recession of 2008-2009, as a result of the sharp decline in corporate profits wich fell by 47% in 2009 only. It took three years for the industry’s output to fully recover from its pre-recession level, before increasing at a much faster pace from 2013 to 2016. The recent strengthening in output reflects solid demand for legal, accounting, consulting and advertising services, largely driven by the growing number of businesses that chose to outsource internal operations, by the record number of mergers and acquisitions which reached a nine-year high in 2016, and by double-digit growth in digital advertising spending. The convergence of international accounting standards and the growing international footprint of Canadian financial institutions have also supported growth in exports of accounting services, while a weaker Canadian dollar has allowed domestic consultants and advertisers to be more competitive on foreign markets. On average, the industry’s real GDP increased by 1.6% annually over the period 2007-2016, with most of the growth occuring in the past four years. In comparison, employment increased continuously over the last decade, with the exception of a temporary drop in 2012 that was fully reversed in subsequent years. The resulting pace of growth in employment averaged 2.3% per year from 2007 to 2016. Negative growth in productivity primarily reflects weak capital investment from the industry over the past decade and the fact that a large number of tasks are highly labour intensive.

Over the projection period, output growth in the industry is expected to accelerate significantly relative to the period 2007-2016, primarily driven by stronger business activities and renewed growth in corporate profits. The industry will continue to benefit from the growing trend in business-to-business outsourcing in order to increase operation efficiency, particularly from manufacturing firms which are more likely to be exposed to fierce competition from low cost countries. Under that context, the straightening anticipated in Canadian manufacturing activity and additional growth in other sectors of the economy represent greater opportunities for the industry. Demand for legal and accounting services is expected to be stimulated by the rising complexity of corporate regulations and auditing practices, the growing number of mergers and acquisitions resulting from globalization, and the increased frequency of cyber attacks and fraudulent activities. Consulting firms are also becoming increasingly prevalent in fields such as human resources management, environmental solutions and technology implementation. They are expected to benefit from the end of austerity measures by the provincial governments in Ontario and Quebec as well as increased spending from the federal government, including consulting work required during a variety of infrastructure projects. Demand for advertising services is expected to be stimulated by the use of big data in better understanding consumer behaviour, further developments in new advertising streams enhanced by mobile and video technologies, and the growing area of social media strategies. There is also some potential to increase exports of professional services as demand for Canadian expertise is growing rapidly. While the relatively low value of the Canadian dollar is expected to improve price-competitiveness, particularly with the United States, the mutual recognition of professional qualifications under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is expected to enable professional service providers to bid on service contracts within the European market. On the negative side, many firms are exposed to risks involving revenue volatility and client retention, as the loyalty of clients is often tied to particular employees. On average, the industry’s real GDP is projected to increase by 2.6% annually over the period 2017-2026, a notable acceleration relative to the previous ten years. In contrast, employment growth is expected to slow significantly, averaging 1.3% per year due to a major turnaround in productivity. Renewed growth in productivity reflects rapid advancements anticipated in cognitive technologies. Indeed, routine cognitive tasks are being increasingly automated and performed by technology, while non-routine cognitive tasks are being increasingly complemented and enhanced by technology. For example, tasks related to data entry, tax preparation, legal research and translation can be increasingly performed by online applications and specialized software, while artificial intelligence and machine learning can complement high-skill jobs related to professional and consulting services.

Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Legal, Accounting, Consulting and Other Professional Services

Figure showing the annual growth of real GDP and employment over the periods 2007-2016 and 2017-2026 for the industry of Legal, Accounting, Consulting and Other Professional 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 Legal, Accounting, Consulting and Other Professional Services, 2007-2016 and 2017-2026, in Percent
  Real GDP Employment
2007-2016 1.6 2.3
2017-2026 2.6 1.3

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

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