Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS)

Industrial Summary

Public Administration

(NAICS 9111-9119; 9121-9129; 9131-9139; 9141; 9191)

Public administration comprises establishments primarily engaged in activities of a governmental nature at the federal, provincial, territorial, regional, municipal and local levels. It covers legislative activities, taxation, national defence, public order and safety, immigration services, foreign affairs and international assistance, and the administration of government programs. The industry includes not only public servants, but also members of the Canadian armed forces, policemen and firefighters. The federal administration is the largest of the five segments, accounting for 40% of production and 42% of employment in 2021 (excluding full time members of the Canadian armed forces), followed by local, municipal and regional administration (31% of production and employment), and provincial and territorial administration (25% and 26%). Aboriginal administration along with international and other extra-territorial administration account for the remaining share of production and employment (4% and 1%). Overall, public administration employed 1.1 million workers in 2021, distributed proportionately to population: 38% in Ontario, 24% in Quebec, 13% in British Columbia, 10% in Alberta, and 15% in the remaining provinces and territories. The workforce is evenly split between men (51%) and women (49%) and benefits from much higher wages than the national average, partly attributable to high unionization rates (76%). Given the wide variety of activities, key occupations (4-digit NOC) include a mix of:

  • Police officers (4311)
  • Employment insurance, immigration, border services and revenue officers (1228)
  • Government managers (0411-0414)
  • Social policy researchers, consultants and program officers (4164)
  • Firefighters (4312)
  • Information systems analysts and consultants (2171)
  • Financial auditors and accountants (1111)
  • Correctional service officers (4422)
  • Lawyers and Quebec notaries (4112)
  • Computer programmers and interactive media developers (2174)
  • Security guards and related security service occupations (6541)
  • User support technicians (2282)
  • Natural and applied science policy researchers, consultants and program officers (4161)
  • Public works and maintenance labourers (7621)
  • Purchasing agents and officers (1225)
  • Civil engineers (2131)
  • Senior government managers and officials (0012)
  • Economists and economic policy researchers and analysts (4162)
  • Executive assistants (1222)
  • Financial managers (0111)
  • Construction inspectors (2264)
  • Inspectors in public and environmental health and occupational health and safety (2263)
  • Health policy researchers, consultants and program officers (4165)
  • Urban and land use planners (2153)
  • Civil engineering technologists and technicians (2231)
  • Correspondence, publication and regulatory clerks (1452)
  • Survey interviewers and statistical clerks (1454)
  • Probation and parole officers (4155)
  • Database analysts and data administrators (2172)
  • Program officers unique to government (4168)
  • Court officers and justices of the peace (1227)
  • Data entry clerks (1422)
  • By-law enforcement and other regulatory officers, n.e.c. (4423)
  • Biologists and related scientists (2121)
  • Biological technologists and technicians (2221)
  • Legislators (0011)
  • Court clerks (1416)
  • Engineering inspectors and regulatory officers (2262)
  • Agricultural and fish products inspectors (2222)
  • Translators, terminologists and interpreters (5125)
  • Technical occupations in geomatics and meteorology (2255)
  • Mathematicians, statisticians and actuaries (2161)
  • Judges (4111)
  • Physicists and astronomers (2111)
  • Meteorologists and climatologists (2114)

During and shortly after the recession of 2008-2009, the various programs put in place by the federal and provincial governments in order to stimulate the economy boosted output and employment in public administration. However, lower tax revenues and increased public spending resulted in large fiscal deficits across all levels of governments. Starting in 2012, the federal and provincial governments announced plans to curtail growth in spending programs in order to balance their budgets, leading to slight declines in output and employment until 2015. The federal government was the most restrictive in terms of program spending in order to achieve a balanced budget by 2014-2015. While the federal administration was successful in achieving its goal, the situation deteriorated again following the collapse in crude oil prices, as weaker economic growth in Canada reduced growth in government revenues. In 2016, the federal government increased spending significantly to stimulate the economy and growth in public expenditures remain strong from 2017 to 2019, boosting output growth in public administration. This led to a substantial rebound in employment, which jumped by 104,000 from 2016 to 2019, recording most of the gains in federal and municipal administrations. However, output and employment slightly contracted in 2020, down by 1.4% and 0.8% respectively, as some services were closed or operated at reduced capacity at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, while hours of work were also lost by the time office employees fully transitioned to telework. With the reopening of government service centers, increased teleworking capabilities and a pandemic-fuelled hiring spree in the federal administration, output and employment strongly rebounded in 2021, up by 4.5% and 7.4% respectively. On average, real GDP in the industry increased at an annual rate of 1.1% over the entire period 2012-2021, compared to 1.4% for employment. Productivity fell significantly during the pandemic years, resulting in an average decline of 0.3% annually for the whole decade.

Over the projection period, output growth in public administration is expected to moderate somewhat relative to the past decade, primarily reflecting a negative outlook in the short term. Indeed, after surging in 2021, the output is projected to contract in 2022 and 2023 as federal and provincial governments contend with large budget deficits resulting from the pandemic. Growth is expected to resume in 2024, but it is expected to remain modest, reflecting additional pressures on public finances resulting from demographic changes. Indeed, further declines anticipated in the overall participation rate due to population aging are projected to lower the pace of growth in the Canadian labour force over the long term, restraining employment and economic growth in the country, which in turn will affect growth in government tax revenues. Massive retirements of baby-boomers from the labour market are also expected to reduce the number of high earners in the Canadian economy and restrain growth in overall labour income. In addition to erode the federal and provincial tax bases, population aging will put further pressures on the health care system, limiting the ability to expand expenditures in government programs and public administration. This double-edged sword will most likely lead to a prolonged period of cost containment for governments who already find themselves in delicate fiscal positions. On the positive side, the commitment of all levels of governments to address climate change and reduce emissions through various policies and programs is expected to support additional growth in output and further job creation in public administration.

The resulting pace of growth in real GDP is projected to average 0.9% annually from 2022 to 2031, a modest slowdown relative to the previous ten years. The pace of growth in employment is also projected to slow, averaging 1.1% per year. Overall, productivity is expected to keep declining by an additional 0.2% annually, but all the decline will occur in 2022-2023 in response to massive hiring of new employees in 2021, which is expected to continue in 2022 and, to a lesser extent, in 2023 (it takes some time before new employees become as productive as established employees). Starting in 2024, productivity growth is expected to resume and lead to more moderate gains in employment for the rest of the projection period. In addition to fiscal constraints, the weaker pace of growth anticipated in Canada’s labour supply and the gradual tightening of the labour market are expected to induce governments to automate some of their operations and to keep implementing new labour-saving ways of delivering services, leading to further gains in productivity. With rapid advancements anticipated in cognitive technologies, government operations involving routine tasks (in occupations such as clerks, inspectors and program officers) are expected to become increasingly automated and performed by specialized software, smart systems and online applications. At the same time, operations involving non-routine tasks (in occupations such as researchers, analysts and scientists) are expected to become increasingly complemented and enhanced by big data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Public Administration

Figure showing the annual average growth rates of real GDP and employment over the periods 2012-2021 and 2022-2031 for the industry of public administration. The data is shown on the table following this figure

Sources: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2022 COPS industrial projections.

Text Version of Figure Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Public Administration (%, annual average)
  Real GDP Employment
2012-2021 1.1 1.4
2022-2031 0.9 1.1

Sources: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2022 COPS industrial projections.

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