Small businesses by the numbers

ONTARIO – Every year Small Business Week strives to recognize the contributions of small businesses to the Canadian economy.

Statistics Canada helps put that contribution into sharper focus with data.

For example, in 2014, the contribution of small businesses to gross domestic product (private sector) was 41.5 per cent.

Below are some of the top statistics provided by Statistics Canada about small businesses.

New businesses

Statistics Canada defines small businesses as businesses employing one to 99 employees. Medium businesses employ 100 to 499 employees and large businesses employ 500 or more employees.

As of December 2017, the Canadian economy totaled 1.18 million employer businesses. Of these, 1.15 million (97.9 percent) were small businesses, 21,926 (1.9 percent) were medium-sized businesses and 2,939 (0.2 percent) were large businesses.

More than half of Canada’s small employer businesses are concentrated in Ontario and Quebec, with 417,742 and 236,705 respectively.

In total there are 1,152,769 in Canada as of 2017.

An increase or decrease in the number of businesses is the net result of the appearance or disappearance of businesses over a given period. This is often referred to as “creative destruction.”

Between 2010 and 2015, the average number of small and medium enterprises created annually was 95,000, while the average number of businesses that disappeared annually was 85,000.


As of 2017, small businesses employed 8.3 million individuals in Canada, or 69.7% of the total private labour force.

By comparison, medium-sized businesses employed 2.4 million individuals (19.9%of the private labour force) and large businesses employed 1.2 million individuals (10.4% of the private labour force).

Between 2013 and 2017, small businesses were responsible for the majority (67.5%) of net employment growth, which increased by approximately 640,000 jobs.

Medium-sized businesses contributed 17.8% of this net employment growth and large businesses contributed 14.7%.

The largest small business sector is construction, with  143,451 small construction companies across Canada, followed by 141,551 professional, scientific and technical services, and 140,001 small retail businesses.

More than 99% of businesses in the following four industries are small businesses: agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting; real estate, rental and leasing; and professional, scientific and technical services.