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. In 2018, the three segments were evenly split in terms of production and employment: courier and delivery services (34% of production and 35% of employment); postal services (32%, 33%); and warehousing and storage (34%, 32%). Overall, the industry employed 210,200 workers, mostly concentrated in Ontario (50%), Quebec (16%), British Columbia (13%) and Alberta (11%), with a workforce primarily composed of men (68%). 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 traditional mail market. As a result, output in postal, courier and delivery services fell markedly from 2009 to 2015, while output in warehousing and storage remained essentially unchanged. After stabilizing in 2016, output in the industry strongly rebounded in 2017-2018, driven by a large increase in warehousing and storage and a modest recovery in postal, courier and delivery services. This situation reflected rising demand for warehousing services and parcel delivery resulting from the growing adoption of e-commerce by households and businesses. Canada Post, the largest company in the industry, responded to these trends by shifting their focus from letter mail to parcel delivery, while big players like Amazon opened many new warehouses and fulfillment centers in the country. However, the recent rebound in the industry’s output was not strong enough to reverse the large declines recorded from 2009 to 2015, leading to a marginal decline in real GDP averaging 0.1% annually for the entire period 2009-2018. After fluctuating significantly from 2009 to 2016, employment in the industry jumped by 15% in 2017-2018 in response to renewed growth in output, resulting in net job creation averaging 0.7% annually over the past decade. Despite attempts to reduce per-piece processing costs and restructure delivery routes, productivity in the industry declined, primarily reflecting the fact that parcel delivery is a more labour intensive line of business than mail delivery.

Renewed growth observed in the industry’s output in recent years is expected to persist over the projection period, primarily driven by the increased popularity and further adoption of e-commerce and the resulting demand for parcel delivery and warehousing services. The pace of growth in real GDP, however, is projected to be relatively modest and 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 in Canada (resulting from slower growth in the working-age population and massive retirements of baby-boomers) is expected to restrain growth opportunities in the industry, particularly in the longer term. Nevertheless, as the traditional mail market continues to decline, postal and courier services firms will face increasing pressures to make parcel delivery their key business line. This trend will be amplified by the fact that direct marketing, such as promotional brochures and catalog distribution, will simply not be able to compete with online marketing, which is more environmentally friendly and enables businesses to better personalize offers to customers by building a profile of their purchasing history and preferences. That said, the industry will benefit from the fact that retailers are increasingly relying on warehousing services, rather than store space, to decrease their turnaround time and deliver their products as fast as possible.

On average, real GDP in postal, delivery and warehousing services is projected to increase by 1.1% annually over the period 2019-2028. Despite renewed growth in output, employment growth is projected to be weaker than the past decade, averaging 0.4% per year, as productivity is expected to pick up with the rapid development and adoption of more efficient technologies. Advanced robotic, self-driving shelving carts, body sensors and artificial intelligence-powered management systems are expected to boost productivity and limit the demand for workers in warehousing. Delivery firms also face threats from large e-commerce companies developing their own parcel delivery capabilities. For example, Amazon is currently experimenting the use of drones to deliver parcels to the customer’s door and Canada Post is also looking at the potential benefits from this technology. However, if the use of drones become a reality, it is unlikely to occur until the latter part of the projection period due to huge logistical and regulatory challenges.

Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Postal, Courier, Warehousing and Storage 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 postal, courier, warehousing and storage 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 Postal, Courier, Warehousing and Storage Services (%, annual average)
  Real GDP Employment
2009-2018 -0.2 0.7
2019-2028 1.1 0.4

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

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