Archived — Key Small Business Statistics - July 2012

How many businesses are there in Canada?

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Statistics Canada's Business Register maintains a count of business locationsFootnote 1 and publishes results twice a year. Business locations can belong to the same company; each company owns at least one business location. For an individual business location to be included in the Business Register, the company to which it belongs must meet at least one of the following minimum criteria: it must have at least one paid employee (with payroll deductions remitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)), it must have annual sales revenues of $30,000, or it must be incorporated and have filed a federal corporate income tax return at least once in the previous three years.

As of December 2011, there were about 2.4 million business locationsFootnote 2 in Canada, as shown in Table 1. About half of all business locations are called "employer businesses" because they maintain a payroll of at least one person (possibly the owner). The other half are classified as "indeterminate" because they do not have any employees registered with the CRA. Such businesses may indeed have no workforce (they may simply be paper entities that nonetheless meet one of the criteria for recognition as a business location) or they may have contract workers, family members and/or only the owners working for them. The "indeterminate" category was created because information about their workforce is not available.

Table 1: Total Number of Business Locations, and Number of Locations Relative to Provincial/Territorial Population and Gross Domestic Product, December 2011
Provinces/ Territories No. of Business Locations No. of Business Locations per 1,000 Population GDP per Business Location ($ thousands)
Total Indeterminate Note 1 referrer of Table 1 Employer Businesses Small
(<100)
Medium
(100–499)
Large
(500+)
Source: Statistics Canada, Business Register, December 2011; National Income and Expenditure Accounts 2010; Estimates of Population by Age and Gender for Canada, the Provinces and the Territories, Q1 2012.
Note 1: The "indeterminate" category consists of incorporated or unincorporated businesses that do not have a Canada Revenue Agency payroll deductions account. The workforce of such businesses may consist of contract workers, family members and/or owners.
Newfoundland and Labrador 26,014 8,690 17,324 17,028 259 37 51 1,084
Prince Edward Island 10,359 4,384 5,975 5,889 75 11 71 484
Nova Scotia 53,933 23,397 30,536 29,966 503 67 57 674
New Brunswick 41,756 15,868 25,888 25,421 411 56 55 705
Quebec 494,673 250,183 244,490 239,832 4,083 575 62 646
Ontario 889,621 497,301 392,320 383,686 7,631 1,003 66 688
Manitoba 77,458 41,002 36,456 35,660 692 104 62 700
Saskatchewan 96,367 56,964 39,403 38,790 546 67 90 660
Alberta 340,027 187,484 152,543 149,843 2,380 320 89 775
British Columbia 368,879 195,290 173,589 170,983 2,326 280 80 551
Yukon Territory 2,955 1,298 1,657 1,621 34 2 85 788
Northwest Territories 2,465 924 1,541 1,501 36 4 57 1,905
Nunavut 816 232 584 559 23 2 24 2,151
Canada Total 2,405,323 1,283,017 1,122,306 1,100,779 18,999 2,528 69 675

Approximately 58 percent of all business locations in Canada are located in Ontario and Quebec. Virtually all the rest are divided between the western provinces (37 percent) and the Atlantic provinces (5 percent). The Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut represent only 0.3 percent of Canada's businesses.

Relative to population, the western provinces, Yukon and Prince Edward Island have more business locations than elsewhere, with the highest ratios in Saskatchewan and Alberta at 90.3 and 89.1 per 1,000 population respectively. Nunavut, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have the lowest ratios of business locations per 1,000 population. Ontario and Quebec are below the national average of 69.4, with 66.2 and 61.7 business locations per 1,000 population respectively.

In terms of gross domestic product (GDP) per business location by province, Nunavut shows the highest ratio at $2,151,000 per location. (This is likely due, in part, to the low number of business locations per 1,000 residents; therefore, its GDP is spread over fewer business locations).

More broadly, there is a noticeable negative relationship between the number of business locations per 1,000 inhabitants and contribution to GDP per business location in that a higher number of business locations per 1,000 population corresponds to a lower GDP per business location. Alberta is an exception to this rule, with a relatively high GDP per business location as well as a high number of business locations per 1,000 residents.

Of the 1,122,306 employer businesses, 2,528 (about 0.2 percent) have 500 employees or more, 1,100,779 employer businesses (98 percent) have fewer than 100 employees, 75 percent have fewer than 10 employees and 55 percent have only 1 to 4 employees (see Table 2).

Table 2: Number of Business Locations by Sector and Firm Size (Number of Employees), December 2011
Number of Employees Cumulative Percent of Employer Businesses No. of Business Locations
Total Goods-Producing Sector Note 2 referrer of Table 2 Service-Producing Sector Note 2 referrer of Table 2
Source: Statistics Canada, Business Register, December 2011.
Note 1: The "indeterminate" category consists of incorporated or unincorporated businesses that do not have a Canada Revenue Agency payroll deductions account. The workforce of such businesses may consist of contract workers, family members and/or owners.
Note 2: By conventional Statistics Canada definition, the goods-producing sector consists of North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes 11 to 31–33, while NAICS codes 41 to 91 define the service-producing sector.
Indeterminate Note 1 referrer of Table 2 1,283,017 306,783 976,234
Employer Business Total 100.0 1,122,306 239,057 883,249
1–4 54.9 615,599 137,093 478,506
5–9 75.0 225,829 46,127 179,702
10–19 87.4 139,946 26,701 113,245
20–49 95.5 90,604 17,668 72,936
50–99 98.1 28,801 6,363 22,438
100–199 99.2 13,025 3,128 9,897
200–499 99.8 5,974 1,528 4,446
500+ 100.0 2,528 449 2,079
Grand Total 2,405,323 545,840 1,859,483

About one quarter of all business locations (indeterminate and employer businesses alike) produce goods, whereas the remainder provide services. Small firms (those with fewer than 100 employees) make up 98 percent of goods-producing employer businesses and 98 percent of all service-producing employer businesses (Table 2 and Figure 1). Using an alternative definition of small businesses in the service-producing sector that defines small businesses as those with fewer than 50 employees, small firms account for 96 percent of all service-producing employer firms.

Figure 1: Distribution of Business Locations in the Goods-Producing and Service-Producing Sectors by Firm Size (Number of Employees), December 2011

Figure 1: Distribution of Business Locations in the Goods-Producing and Service-Producing Sectors by Firm Size (Number of Employees), December 2011
Source: Statistics Canada, Business Register, December 2011.
Note 1: By conventional Statistics Canada definition, the goods-producing sector consists of North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes 11 to 31–33, while NAICS codes 41 to 91 define the service-producing sector.
Note 2: The "indeterminate" category consists of incorporated or unincorporated businesses that do not have a Canada Revenue Agency payroll deductions account. The workforce of such businesses may consist of contract workers, family members and/or owners.
Description of Figure 1
Figure 1: Distribution of Business Locations in the Goods-Producing and Service-Producing Sectors by Firm Size (Number of Employees), December 2011
Firm Size Goods-Producing Sector Note 1 referrer of Figure 1 Service-Producing Sector Note 1 referrer of Figure 1
Indeterminate Note 2 referrer of Figure 1 56.2% 52.5%
Employer Businesses 43.8% 47.5%
1–4 57.4% 54.2%
5–9 19.3% 20.3%
10–19 11.2% 12.8%
20–49 7.4% 8.3%
50–99 2.7% 2.5%
100–199 1.3% 1.1%
200–499 0.6% 0.5%
500+ 0.2% 0.2%

Table 3 shows the distribution of employer businesses by size of business location in each province and territory. Generally speaking, the distribution by size in the provinces is similar to the national average distribution by size. However, there is some variation among the provinces and territories; for example, there is a higher percentage of micro-enterprises (1 to 4 employees) in Alberta (59 percent) and British Columbia (57 percent) than in Ontario (56 percent), Quebec (51 percent) or the territories (from 23 percent to 50 percent).

Table 3: Employer Businesses by Firm Size (Number of Employees) in the Provinces and Territories, December 2011
Provinces/ Territories Employer Businesses
Total Percent of Total
1–4 5–9 10–19 20–49 50–99 Small (<100) 100–199 200–499 Medium (100–499) Large (500+)
Source: Statistics Canada, Business Register, December 2011.
Newfoundland and Labrador 17,324 54.1 22.2 12.8 7.2 1.9 98.3 1.0 0.5 1.5 0.2
Prince Edward Island 5,975 51.7 22.6 13.9 8.1 2.4 98.6 0.9 0.3 1.3 0.2
Nova Scotia 30,536 54.9 20.3 12.3 8.1 2.4 98.1 1.2 0.5 1.6 0.2
New Brunswick 25,888 54.9 20.8 12.7 7.6 2.3 98.2 1.1 0.5 1.6 0.2
Quebec 244,490 50.8 22.2 13.4 8.9 2.8 98.1 1.1 0.5 1.7 0.2
Ontario 392,320 55.5 19.3 12.2 8.1 2.7 97.8 1.3 0.6 1.9 0.3
Manitoba 36,456 50.5 21.3 14.0 9.1 2.9 97.8 1.3 0.6 1.9 0.3
Saskatchewan 39,403 55.3 20.5 12.6 7.8 2.2 98.4 0.9 0.5 1.4 0.2
Alberta 152,543 59.0 18.0 11.5 7.3 2.4 98.2 1.1 0.5 1.6 0.2
British Columbia 173,589 56.8 20.0 12.1 7.3 2.2 98.5 0.9 0.4 1.3 0.2
Yukon Territory 1,657 49.5 24.0 13.6 8.4 2.2 97.8 1.3 0.8 2.1 0.1
Northwest Territories 1,541 35.2 24.0 19.1 14.7 4.4 97.4 1.6 0.7 2.3 0.3
Nunavut 584 22.6 25.2 21.1 17.6 9.2 95.7 3.3 0.7 3.9 0.3
Canada Total 1,122,306 54.9 20.1 12.5 8.1 2.6 98.1 1.2 0.5 1.7 0.2

Table 4 presents the distribution of employer businesses by size of business location in each industry. The greatest variation across industries is found among micro-enterprises. The highest percentage of micro-industries is in professional, scientific and technical services (75.6 percent) and in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (71.9 percent). The lowest percentages of micro-enterprises are found in public administration (22.5 percent), accommodation and food services (27.7 percent) and utilities (33.0 percent).

Table 4: Employer Businesses by Firm Size (Number of Employees) in Industries, December 2011
Industry
(Ranked by number of employer businesses)
Employer Businesses
Total Percent of Total
1–4 5–9 10–19 20–49 50–99 Small (<100) 100–199 200–499 Medium (100–499) Large (500+)
Source: Statistics Canada, Business Register, December 2011.
Retail Trade 146,056 36.6 30.6 18.4 9.0 3.3 97.9 1.7 0.4 2.1 0.0
Construction 125,851 60.9 20.7 10.3 5.7 1.6 99.2 0.6 0.2 0.8 0.1
Other Services (except Public Administration) 125,200 68.9 18.8 7.9 3.3 0.7 99.6 0.3 0.1 0.4 0.0
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services 124,741 75.6 12.2 6.7 3.8 1.0 99.2 0.5 0.2 0.7 0.1
Health Care and Social Assistance 96,039 54.2 20.7 13.2 6.9 2.5 97.5 1.3 0.8 2.1 0.4
Accommodation and Food Services 74,204 27.7 24.0 22.5 18.5 5.8 98.4 1.2 0.3 1.5 0.1
Wholesale Trade 61,533 45.4 24.2 15.9 10.2 2.8 98.5 1.0 0.4 1.4 0.1
Administrative and Support, Waste Management and Remediation Services 51,889 53.7 21.6 11.9 7.3 2.8 97.3 1.6 0.8 2.4 0.3
Manufacturing 51,766 35.0 20.5 16.7 14.8 6.6 93.6 3.8 2.1 5.9 0.5
Transportation and Warehousing 51,249 66.2 14.2 8.9 6.6 2.3 98.2 0.9 0.6 1.5 0.2
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting 50,872 71.9 15.9 7.3 3.7 1.0 99.6 0.3 0.1 0.4 0.0
Real Estate and Rental and Leasing 44,704 68.7 15.7 9.4 4.4 1.2 99.3 0.4 0.2 0.6 0.1
Finance and Insurance 42,150 49.2 15.5 13.2 17.8 2.4 98.1 0.9 0.7 1.6 0.4
Arts, Entertainment and Recreation 17,028 46.0 21.6 13.8 11.5 4.0 96.9 2.0 0.7 2.8 0.3
Management of Companies and Enterprises 13,982 58.8 14.4 9.4 8.5 3.8 94.9 2.2 1.7 3.9 1.3
Information and Cultural Industries 13,967 53.1 16.7 12.4 10.5 3.7 96.4 2.1 1.0 3.1 0.6
Educational Services 12,273 43.3 19.4 14.7 11.5 4.0 93.0 1.9 1.8 3.7 3.4
Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction 9,202 58.0 13.8 12.1 8.2 4.1 96.2 2.1 1.1 3.2 0.6
Public Administration 8,234 22.5 17.9 16.5 18.0 9.4 84.2 7.1 5.0 12.1 3.7
Utilities 1,366 33.0 18.5 15.0 15.6 7.2 89.3 4.5 3.1 7.7 3.0
Total 1,122,306 54.9 20.1 12.5 8.1 2.6 98.1 1.2 0.5 1.7 0.2
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