Total automotive-related employment has grown by 17 per cent since the start of the decade, driven in large part by surging sales, longer-lasting vehicles and Canadian vehicle ownership reaching record levels.
According to data supplied by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc., 823,052 Canadians were employed in auto-related jobs in 2018, ranging from dealerships and aftermarket companies, to assembly plants and suppliers.
That compares with 703,451 in 2010, when the industry and the economy as a whole were just beginning to emerge from the 2008-09 economic collapse.
The rise in employment comes amid uncertainty over the future of Canadian auto production, which has fallen 25 per cent, according to Ontario government data.
Jobs at dealerships, for instance, rose 20 per cent since 2010 to 159,045, while aftermarket jobs jumped 17 per cent to 407,253.
“The politics in any country tend to — from an automotive perspective, anyway — only look at manufacturing,” said Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants. “And the theory behind that is that manufacturing is mobile and when you lose it, it’s gone. Whereas the nonmanufacturing side, if a dealer on one side of Toronto closes, another one opens up across the street. It’s technically net-neutral in the country.
“So I understand the politics of it. It’s bad to lose manufacturing because it has a negative impact on jobs.”
Unifor, the union representing about 4,500 General Motors and FCA workers who will be out of a job come the end of 2019, has been critical of the Canadian and Ontario governments for not doing more to, at the very least, keep manufacturing jobs in Ontario.
“But when you actually look at the numbers, the nonmanufacturing jobs in the automotive sector far outweigh the manufacturing jobs,” DesRosiers said.
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There were 44,030 automotive assembly jobs in Canada in 2018, up 18 per cent since 2010. That compares with 665,502 nonmanufacturing jobs in 2018.
The 16-per-cent rise in nonmanufacturing automotive jobs can be attributed in large part to increased vehicle ownership, DesRosiers said. Ownership rates are in the “mid-80-per-cent range,” compared with about two-thirds of Canadians owning vehicles at the turn of the century, he said.
“Imagine how much extra economic activity that is: Selling them, fixing them, transporting them and the implications on the used-car market as well,” DesRosiers said.
Improved vehicle technology has put more buyers in the market. At the same time, he said, vehicles are lasting longer, putting more consumers in the used market.
“Vehicle companies have invested billions and billions of dollars into improving the quality of the vehicle,” DesRosiers said. “Vehicles last a long time, so the older ones become affordable and reachable by a lot of consumers that couldn’t afford a new one or younger used one [in the past].”