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 65% of production in 2018, followed distantly by textiles (18%) and clothing (17%). Overall, more than 50% of the industry’s production is shipped to foreign countries, mostly to the United States which accounts for 90% of exports. Clothing is the most export intensive segment (88%), followed by textiles (52%) and furniture and related products (44%). 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 128,600 workers in 2018 (7.4% of total manufacturing employment), with 62% in furniture and related products, 26% in clothing and 12% in textiles. Employment is mostly concentrated in Ontario (42%) and Quebec (34%), with men accounting for the majority of the workforce (60%). Key occupations (4-digit NOC) include:[3]

  • 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)

After peaking in the late 1990s, production and employment in the industry fell drastically from 2000 to 2010. This reflected 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. Production and employment continued to decline from 2011 to 2014, albeit at a much slower pace, before rebounding modestly from 2015 to 2018. During those years, activity in the industry was largely supported by the gradual recovery in residential investment in the United States and its positive impact on the furniture segment. The decline in the value of the Canadian dollar that followed the collapse in crude oil prices also helped to increase exports of textiles, clothing and furniture to the United States in recent years, which resulted in renewed growth in production and employment. On average, real GDP and employment fell at annual rates of 1.3% and 0.5% respectively over the period 2009-2018. While the decreases in employment have been less severe in the past decade, the industry has cut about half of its workforce since the early 2000’s 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 2018, the share of imports in the domestic market increased from 55% to 89% for textiles and clothing and from 37% to 47% 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 7% for furniture and related products and from 4.2% to 1.6% for textiles and clothing.

Renewed growth observed in the industry’s output in recent years is expected to persist over the projection period. The industry should continue to benefit from the low value of the Canadian dollar, which makes products manufactured in Canada more competitive relative to imports and contributes to support exports and domestic sales. Foreign demand for textiles, clothing and furniture is expected to be supported by solid growth in consumer spending and residential investment in the United States, at least in the short- to medium-term as the pace of growth is projected to taper off gradually. The growing middle class in emerging countries is expected to lead to new market opportunities, particularly for high-end and luxury furniture, while Canada’s unique expertise in developing and producing technical and smart textiles used in the construction, health care, defence and aerospace industries also represents promising opportunities. That said, although 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. While the signing of the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) should ensure tariff-free access to the North American market, the trade dispute between China and the United States could also affect the trade outlook for Canada. For example, Chinese exports of apparel and furniture to the United States could be diverted to Canada in order to avoid the U.S. tariffs and potentially hurt domestic production in Canada. The U.S. customs could also impose tariffs on Canadian exports of apparel and furniture if they believe that some of the products were at least partially manufactured in China.

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 slower growth in the working-age population and massive retirements of baby-boomers). High household debt levels are also expected to reduce consumer’s ability to finance new furniture purchases. The slowdown anticipated in new housing activity in Canada is an additional factor expected to restrain domestic demand for furniture and related products. On a positive note, the continued expansion of e-commerce will allow apparel manufacturers to market their products directly to costumers, eliminating retail markups and some of the downside factors that the industry is currently facing. The resulting pace of growth in real GDP is projected to average 1.0% annually over the period 2019-2028. Although renewed growth in production is expected to stabilize employment in the industry (0.0% growth), the need to increase productivity and lower production costs in a highly competitive environment will continue to restrain labour demand.

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

Figure showing the annual average growth rates of real GDP and employment over the periods 2009-2018 and 2019-2028 for the industry of textile, clothing, leather and furniture. 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 Textile, Clothing, Leather and Furniture (%, annual average)
  Real GDP Employment
2009-2018 -1.3 -0.5
2019-2028 1.0 0.0

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

[3]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). Back to text.

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