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 (25% of production and 23% of employment in 2018); accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services (26% and 25%); management, scientific and technical consulting (25% and 24%); advertising and public relations (11% and 16%); and other professional, scientific and technical services such as photographic, translation and veterinary services (14% and 12%). Overall, the industry employed 673,500 workers in 2018, mostly concentrated in Ontario (44%), Quebec (20%), British Columbia (15%) and Alberta (12%). The workforce is characterized by a majority of women (58%), 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 (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 plunged by 47% in 2009 only. It took three years for the industry’s output to fully recover from its pre-recession level. Following a year of particularly rapid growth in 2013, real GDP growth averaged 1.8% annually from 2014 to 2018. During that period, output in the industry was driven by a number of factors, including the robust demand for legal, accounting, consulting and advertising services in response to the growing number of businesses that chose to outsource internal operations; the record number of mergers and acquisitions which reached a twelve-year high in 2018; and the double-digit rate of 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 1.5% annually over the period 2009-2018, with most of the growth occuring from 2013 to 2018. In comparison, employment increased almost continuously over the last decade, with the exception of small declines in 2012 and 2018. The resulting pace of growth in employment averaged 2.0% per year from 2009 to 2018. Negative growth in productivity primarily reflects weak capital investment in 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 2009-2018, primarily driven by stronger business activities and a pick-up in corporate profitability. 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 acceleration anticipated in Canadian manufacturing activity, combined with solid activity 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 increased frequency of cyber attacks and fraudulent activities, and the growing number of mergers and acquisitions, especially in the mining, energy and cannabis sectors. 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 increased federal government spending in 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, new advertising streams enhanced by mobile and video technologies, and the growing area of social media strategies. Artifical intelligence and machine learning can be leveraged by the the different segments of the industry to solve increasingly complex business problems, potentially driving new lines of business.

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 2.5% annually over the period 2019-2028, a notable acceleration relative to the previous ten years. In contrast, employment growth is expected to slow, averaging 1.4% 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 average growth rates of real GDP and employment over the periods 2009-2018 and 2019-2028 for the industry of legal, accounting, consulting and other professional services. The data is shown on the table following this figure

Sources: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS industrial projections.

Text Version of Figure Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Legal, Accounting, Consulting and Other Professional Services (%, annual average)
  Real GDP Employment
2009-2018 1.5 2.0
2019-2028 2.5 1.4

Sources: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2019 COPS industrial projections.


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