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Employment Outlook: Toronto and Vancouver

by Mary Anne Thompson

Slow but steady job growth can be found in two of Canada’s major cities, despite the negative impact of falling commodity prices in some regions of Canada, according to Mary Anne Thompson, President and Founder of GoinGlobal. 


Toronto represents one-sixth of Canada’s total workforce and is one of the country’s major economic centers. Toronto has a diverse, well-educated and highly skilled workforce and an equally diverse economy, which offers resilience in the face of economic downturns.

  • More than 77 percent of jobs in Toronto are service-based.
  • The office sector is the city’s largest employer, accounting for nearly half of all jobs.
  • The institutional sector is the city’s second-largest employer and the fastest-growing sector.
  • Jobseekers face increased difficulty accessing the labor market and finding quality, stable jobs.
  • The unemployment rate remains high at 7.9 percent for the City of Toronto proper.
  • Part-time jobs have been on the rise in Toronto over the past 30 years; the retail sector accounts for nearly half of part-time jobs.

Toronto’s labor market has changed over the past two decades, transforming itself from a manufacturing economy to a service economy.

  • Manufacturing sector jobs tend to be well-paid, full-time jobs while service jobs are often part-time, contract/temporary or held by freelancers and the self-employed.
  • Certain fields are also experiencing a skills shortage, due in part to the mass retirement of boomers.

Although the federal government does not provide an economic forecast at the municipal level, the City of Toronto predicts 3 percent growth this year. While economic growth has slowed, growth is expected to be higher than that of the national economy, since the city is less vulnerable to the fluctuations of the commodities and resources market.

Key industries

  • Biotechnology
  • Clean tech
  • Design
  • Education
  • Film and television
  • Financial services
  • Food and beverage
  • Health care
  • IT
  • Manufacturing
  • Professional services
  • Tourism

Areas of Job Promise

Lower oil prices and a weaker Canadian dollar (CAD) have affected all of Canada, Toronto included. On the bright side, the weaker CAD is expected to benefit the export-oriented manufacturing industry, along with business services, tourism and film production.

Most job growth over the past couple of years has occurred in the following areas:

  1. Health care and social assistance
  2. Professional, scientific and technical services
  3. Accommodation and food services
  4. Educational services
  5. Real estate

Source: City of Toronto


The lowest annual salaries in the City of Toronto are found in accommodation and food services, retail, and arts, entertainment and recreation, while the highest salaries are found in public administration, professional and scientific services, and finance, insurance and real estate.

  • The median hourly wage is 22.26 CAD, a 7.6 percent increase year-over-year.
  • The average annual salary across all industries is 47,556 CAD.
  • The average household income is 87,038 CAD, according to the latest government statistics.
  • The general minimum wage in Ontario is 11.25 CAD.

Job category

Average hourly wage (CAD)

Senior management occupations


Retail, food and accommodation managers


Business, finance and administrative occupations


Clerical occupations


Health professionals




Retail and sales clerks


Machine operators


ITC and engineering occupations


Source: City of Toronto


With a population of 2.5 million, Vancouver is the largest city in the province of British Columbia (BC).

Employment grew by 13 percent between 2005 and 2014 in the Vancouver census area, higher than Montreal and Toronto but well below Calgary and Edmonton’s explosive growth. The unemployment rate in Vancouver is currently at 5.7 percent, little changed from the same period last year and lower than the provincial and national rates.

Provincially, there has been an increase in temporary positions over the past few years, and temporary workers in BC earn less than full-time workers.

Key Industries

Most Vancouverites are employed in the information and cultural industries, specifically professional, scientific and technical services.

  • Technology, including video game development, animation and special effects
  • Clean tech and green industries
  • Film and television production

Areas of Job Promise

Vancouver’s technology, clean tech and digital media (special effects, animation and gaming) industries are thriving.


The city is enjoying a start-up boom, driven by a strong network of more than a dozen incubators and accelerators. Vancouver-based ‘unicorns’ (companies valued at 1 billion USD) include Hootsuite, Slack and Avigilon, and about a dozen other companies are emerging stars. Vancouver’s tech sector is expected to generate 15,000 new jobs in the coming years.

Green industries

Vancouver has a rapidly growing clean tech and green industry. The city aims to be the “Greenest City in the World” by 2020 and be powered 100 percent by renewable energy by 2050.


Vancouver also has one of North America’s emerging biotech corridors, and is home to 70 percent of BC’s life sciences industry, which encompasses biopharmaceuticals (Vancouver’s main focus), medical devices, bioproducts and bioenergy.

R&D in Vancouver is focused on oncology, infectious diseases (especially HIV, SARS and prions), neuroscience and regenerative medicine.


Vancouver International Airport recently received a record 20 million passengers, and aims to receive 25 million by 2020 by promoting its position as a link between the Americas and Asia. Such an increase would add between 5,000 and 7,000 new direct jobs at the airport.


The average hourly wage for an employee in British Columbia is 25.29 CAD, up from 24.71 CAD last year. The annual median total income for a census family in Vancouver is 73,390 CAD. The current minimum wage in Vancouver is 10.25 CAD per hour, well below the calculated ‘living wage’ of 20.10 CAD per hour.

Average hourly wages in British Columbia by job category (CAD)



Business, finance and administrative


Natural and applied sciences




Social science, education, government service and religion


Art, culture, recreation and sport


Sales and service


Trades, transport and equipment operators


Processing, manufacturing and utilities


 Source: Statistics Canada


The economies of Toronto and Vancouver benefit from their close proximity to the U.S., and both have managed to show slow growth in the last couple of years. Both cities enjoy well-educated and highly skilled workforces that help stave off the skills shortages so many cities around the world are experiencing. Unemployment is slowly decreasing, and job opportunities are increasing, though in increments. Canada is faring well overall, and the major cities of Toronto and Vancouver are a big part of why.    


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