General Manufacturing Sector Profile

Sector Facts and Figures

Total GDP

     Share of Canadian GDP

$58.9 billion



$112.0 billion


$197.8 billion

Foreign Trade Balance

     5-year change

-$85.7 billion


Total Employment (2021)

     Change since 2011



Real wage growth (2011-2019)


Labour Productivity (2019)


Average Work Hours/Week (2019)


Greenhouse Gas Emissions (2019)

     Change since 2009

     Share of Canadian industry total




Union Coverage Rate


Unifor Members in the Industry


Share of Total Unifor Membership


Number of Unifor Bargaining Units


Average Bargaining Unit Size


Source: Statcan; Unifor Research Department.

Data refers to 2021 except where indicated.

Current Conditions

The general manufacturing sector in Canada represents workers in various manufacturing workplaces such as textile, chemical, plastics, rubber, machinery, electrical equipment and furniture related products.

Due to numerous external factors such as competition from foreign producers and trade imbalances, Canada lost 126,398 general manufacturing jobs from 2001 to 2009.  One in seven manufacturing jobs in Canada disappeared during the period from 2004 to 2008. In 2004, manufacturing represented 14.4% of total employment; in 2008, the proportion was 11.5%.

In 2021, general manufacturing employment saw a slight increase from 2020 levels to 435,278, mainly thanks to job growth in the chemical (pharmaceutical) manufacturing segment during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these levels still represent a steep decline from the early 2000s, when there were more than half a million jobs concentrated in the sector.

Average general manufacturing wages increased from $27.46 in 2011 to $35.71 in 2020. Real wages grew 5.3% from 2011 to 2019. Labour productivity continues to soar for the sector, with a growth of 21.5% over the same period of time, reaching $60.8 value added per hour of labour in 2019. This means that the hourly value contributed by the labour power of workers in this sector far outstrips what they are remunerated in wages.


Select Unifor Employers

Approx. # Members

Winpak Limited


Bestar Inc.


Basf Canada Inc.


AT Films Inc.


Vesuvius Canada Inc.



Unifor in the General Manufacturing Sector

Unifor’s 19,300 general manufacturing members make up 6% of overall union membership spread out across 268 bargaining units. However, the average bargaining unit membership is quite small at an average of 72 members.  The general manufacturing sector consists of 17% of members in chemical manufacturing, 2% in textile manufacturing, 20% in plastic and rubber manufacturing, 11% in electrical manufacturing, 9% in furniture manufacturing, 7% in machinery manufacturing, and 34% members in other forms of manufacturing.

Moving Forward: Developing the General Manufacturing Sector

Overall, there is a tough road ahead for the general manufacturing sector in Canada, but with strong public policy and fairer international trade, the industry can be set up for future success.

Revenue for other manufacturing in Canada declined more than 30% in 2020 due to trade disruptions and the overall economy deteriorating due to the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. Trade deals and negotiations that create fair and just policies for Canadian manufacturing are critical for this sector.

Revenue in the chemical product manufacturing segment is expected to fall at an annualized rate of 3.1% over the next five years to a total $4.3 billion due to an appreciating exchange rate and a resulting decrease in industry exports. Investment in green chemical resources and products will be essential for this this sector and many others.

Industry observers expect the value of exports in the rubber product manufacturing segment in Canada to increase an annualized 1.5% to $1.1 billion over the five years to 2026. While much of the general manufacturing sector will face fierce competition from foreign producers, there is tremendous product value in goods and services products that are made in Canada. A campaign that continues the momentum of “made in Canada matters” will greatly assist this sector going forward.

Major Sector Development Issues

  • The general manufacturing sector must deploy strategies to keep up with the demand in export markets and fight off competition from foreign producers.
  • Many industries within general manufacturing are highly susceptible to unfair trade practices and import barriers erected by low-cost producers, which need to be vigorously opposed by the federal government.
  • Conducting environmental impact assessments and investing in less emission intensive methods of production will be vital for ensuring that the general manufacturing sector contributes to Canada’s shift towards a green economy.