Trends in Metro Vancouver Employment Growth by Industry Over 2001-2015

March 9, 2016
Kristine St-Laurent

Employment growth in Metro Vancouver has waxed and waned across industry sectors over the last 10-15 years. Wholesale and retail trade was the largest source of jobs in Metro Vancouver in 2001, with a total of 165,600 positions.[1] By 2008 this had increased by 11% (another 18,100 jobs). Although manufacturing may not be as visible as some other industries, it was the second largest regional employer in 2001, with 104,200 jobs. By 2008, manufacturing had been replaced as the second ranked employer by health care and social assistance (112,100). Professional, scientific and technical services was third in 2008 (108,800), followed by construction (103,400). By the end of 2008 manufacturing had fallen to fifth place (99,400 jobs).

With the onset of the global recession, 2008-2009 saw employment levels decline, as Metro Vancouver lost 7,200 jobs overall. The manufacturing sector was hit hardest, shedding 13% of its jobs (13,300) in two years. With 8,400 fewer jobs (a 9% drop), the finance, insurance, real estate and leasing sectors were also impacted by the recession. Despite the overall fall in employment, both the retail/wholesale trade and health care industries continued to grow at 10% and 9% respectively, adding a combined total of 27,700 jobs in 2008-2009. Employment in accommodation and food services increased by 4% (2,900), while jobs in public administration rose by 9% (3,900).

Over the last fifteen years retail/wholesale trade has consistently remained the leading industry in Metro Vancouver, measured by the number of jobs. Since 2008 health care and social assistance has added 40,500 jobs, and it continues to be the second biggest provider of employment in the region, expanding in tandem with an aging population. The diverse professional, scientific and technical services sector has performed well, directly supporting 130,500 jobs in Metro Vancouver as of 2015. The fourth largest employer in the region is now construction (103,000), followed by accommodation and food services (97,000 jobs), manufacturing (95,400) and education (95,300).

Biggest Employers in Metro Vancouver in 2015
Top 5 Major Public Firms
in Metro Vancouver 2015*
Industry Sector Headquarters No. BC Employees
1. Fraser Health Health care Surrey 14,712
2. Vancouver Coastal Health Health care Vancouver 12,896
3. UBC Education Vancouver 12,398
4. School District No. 36 Education Surrey 9,998
5. Provincial Health Services Authority Health Care Vancouver 8,409
Top 5 Major Private Firms
in Metro Vancouver 2015**
Industry Sector Headquarters No. BC Employees
1. Jim Pattison Group Trade (diversified,
Vancouver 8,655
2. Telus Corp Telecommunications Vancouver 6,600
3. RBC Royal Bank of Canada Financial services Toronto 5,272
4. Providence Health Care Health care Vancouver 4,800
5. Air Canada Air travel Montreal 4,100
* Business in Vancouver, Biggest Public-Sector Employers in Metro Vancouver 2015,
** Business in Vancouver, Biggest Private-Sector Employers in Metro Vancouver 2015,

Employment trends signal a continuing shift from goods-producing to service- producing industries, with a particularly big jump in the number of jobs in professional, scientific and technical services. The latter is a positive trend as Metro Vancouver becomes known for the strong presence of knowledge-based industries.[2]

By 2041 Metro Vancouver is projected to be home to 3.4 million residents, roughly 1 million more than today.[3] The region’s employment base is expected to grow from 1,298,500 jobs in 2015[4] to 1,753,000 jobs by 2041. To ensure a prosperous economy, municipal and provincial policy makers need to adopt policies that attract investment and high-value business activity to the region and further develop Metro Vancouver’s human capital. It is also important to foster a competitive business environment. Lastly, despite its smaller share of total employment, local political and business leaders should not overlook the continued role of the goods producing sector in providing significant numbers of high-paying jobs. A thoughtful public policy framework is required to protect the supply of industrial land for manufacturing and other goods-producing enterprises to support Metro Vancouver’s diverse and increasingly global-facing economy.

[1] Statistics Canada. Table 282-0131 – Labour force survey estimates (accessed March 8, 2016).

[2]2014 Social Indicator and Trends: Healthy City for All

[4] Statistics Canada. Table 282-0131 and the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy.

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