indicatorThe Owl

Head office employment continues to contract

Head offices are associated with a number of economic benefits

By Rob Roach, ATB Economics 3 March 2023 1 min read

The latest results from Statistics Canada’s Annual Head Office Survey show that head office* employment continued its downward trend in 2021.

The number of head office employees in Canada was 5% (11,368) lower in 2021 than in 2012 (when the data series began) and has contracted every year since 2018.

The trend is stronger in Alberta where head office employment has pulled back every year since 2015 such that it was 18% (7,270) lower than in 2012.

There are more head office employees in Calgary than in Edmonton (25,427 versus 5,027 as of 2021), but both cities have seen a 19% decline in staff levels since 2012.

Toronto is home to the largest number of head office employees of any city at 68,738 in 2021 but it, too, has experienced a downward trend with the total off by 6% (4,642) compared to 2012.

The number of head offices in Canada has also fallen, going from 2,793 in 2012 to 2,683 in 2021 (-4%).

In Alberta, the number of head offices has gone from 399 in 2012 to 366 in 2021 (-8%).

The number of head offices and the number of head office workers can change for many reasons including amalgamation, increased efficiency, new technology, outsourcing of tasks, relocation, downsizing due to economic difficulties, or going out of business altogether.

As a result, it is difficult to say for certain what the downward trend is telling us.

However, because head offices tend to provide good-paying jobs, support a range of local economic activity, and add economic “heft” to their location, the decline we have been witnessing is at least somewhat concerning. 

*Head offices include establishments and locations primarily engaged in providing general management or administrative support services to affiliated establishments.

Answer to the previous trivia question: At US$150 billion, the International Space Station is considered to be the most expensive thing ever constructed (in modern times).

Today’s trivia question: Which province had more head offices in 2021: Alberta or British Columbia?

Head office employment in Alberta peaked in 2014

Head office employment in Alberta peaked in 2014

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