Exploring the Pillars of the Ontario Economy: Key Sectors Driving Growth

Major Industries in Ontario Canada

How robust is the Ontario economy, and what fuels its growth? Accounting for a substantial share of Canada’s GDP, the Ontario economy thrives on manufacturing, services, and agriculture. This exploration cuts to the core of the province’s economic landscape, examining the sectors that propel its growth and the policies that shape its future. Discover the balance between innovation and tradition in Ontario’s main industries amidst global challenges.

Quick Rundown

  • Ontario plays a crucial role in Canada’s economy, contributing 38% to the GDP, boasting a diverse economy with significant regional variations, particularly between the industrialized south and the less developed north.
  • The economy is driven by key sectors that include service industries (comprising 77.9% of GDP), manufacturing (12.6%), and agriculture, with targeted governmental programs supporting growth and technological innovation.
  • Trade, investment, and proactive government initiatives like the Green Energy Act and infrastructure investments are vital to Ontario’s economic growth, though strategies are continuously evolving to address economic headwinds and societal concerns.

Ontario's Economic Landscape

Ontario, contributing a monumental 38% to Canada’s gross domestic product, represents a pillar of the national economy. Ontario’s nominal GDP recently saw a modest climb of 1.3%, a testament to the province’s enduring vitality in the face of global economic headwinds, even as real GDP held steady, unwavering in its stance.

However, Ontario’s economy today is not a monolith but a mosaic, with varied hues of progress across its expanse.

Regional Differences

Boasting prowess in auto-making, food and beverage production, and fabricated metals, the robust manufacturing sector positions Southern Ontario as the industrial heartland. This region’s transportation infrastructure serves as the arteries of commerce, ensuring the efficient circulation of goods and bolstering the local economy.

However, the economic machine doesn’t run full-speed in all corners of the province. Stark contrasts become evident when one gazes northward, where Northern Ontario presents a less developed landscape. Here, disparities in per capita income and employment levels underscore the divide between the industrialized south and its northern counterpart. It’s not much of a surprise, though, given the massive differences in population density between the two regions. There’s also a far lower cost of living in Ontario outside of highly developed areas such as the GTA.

Ontario's Top Employers

Diverse companies, each playing a pivotal role in the province’s prosperity, weave the fabric of Ontario’s economy. From the bustling streets of Toronto to the small towns and expansive fields of the rural regions, top employers offer a mosaic of opportunities that span various industries and sectors. This plurality is not just a characteristic but a cornerstone of Ontario’s economy today, as detailed by the Ontario Ministry’s reports.

The Royal Bank stands out among these titans of industry, with its towering presence in Toronto symbolizing Ontario’s economic underpinning. Yet, the economic narrative of Ontario is not solely authored by financial institutions. A constellation of businesses in fields ranging from technology to healthcare contribute to a vibrant and resilient economic landscape.

Biggest Companies in Ontario by Employment

  • Government of Ontario
  • Walmart Inc.
  • Royal Bank of Canada
  • TD Bank N A
  • University of Toronto
  • Bridgemarq Real Estate Services
  • The Home Depot Inc.
  • Rogers Communications Inc.

Information via IBISWorld.com

Key Industries and Their Impact

Three standout performers feature in Ontario’s economic ensemble: the service industries, manufacturing, and agriculture. Together, these three industries comprise over 80% of the economy, with service industries taking the lead.


Manufacturing is a Major Industry in Ontario

A bastion of job creation and technological advancement, the manufacturing sector accounts for 12.6% of Ontario’s economy. Automobile manufacturing, for example, employs thousands of people in Windsor, and manufacturing is the biggest industry in Chatham-Kent.

This sector’s narrative is rich with initiatives like the Driving Prosperity Auto Plan, which fuels the province’s ambition to lead in hybrid and electric vehicle production, alongside a commitment to nurturing exports and job creation in the automobile manufacturing arena.

Government-backed programs such as the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Competitiveness Stream and the Ontario Made initiative are catalysts for growth, empowering businesses with the tools for equipment acquisition and technological prowess. These investments are carefully curated to ensure the manufacturing sector remains a cornerstone of Ontario’s economy, even as it navigates the ebbs and flows of global demand.


As the economy’s crown jewel, the service sector constitutes over three-quarters of Ontario’s GDP, with its impact felt in every facet of provincial life. In contrast to the goods sector, this sector’s output, reflecting the demand for:

  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Tourism
  • A myriad of other services

The economy, influenced by factors such as inflation, population growth, and the unemployment rate, grew by 0.4% in the second quarter of 2023, underscoring its role as a key driver of economic growth and providing the correct answer to those questioning its stability.

Government initiatives like the Enhanced Digital Main Street program and business improvement districts in Windsor are the winds beneath the wings of the service sector. These programs, with a combined injection of millions of dollars, are the architects of a future where businesses can soar to new heights through digital transformation and innovation, reflecting a commitment to job creation and economic resilience.


With the agri-food industry contributing a hearty $48.8 billion to the provincial GDP, Ontario’s agrarian roots run deep. This sector makes up 6.4% of Ontario’s total economy, a testament to the province’s commitment to feeding not only its population but also its economic engine. The industry’s resilience is evident in the job growth and wage increases that it has continued to foster throughout the years.

Trade and Investment

With the United States as a significant investor, trade and investment serve as twin engines propelling Ontario’s economy forward. The exchange of goods and services across borders is a dance of diplomacy and strategy, with Ontario taking center stage. Policies evolve, and with them, the economic ties that bind Ontario to its partners and investors, ensuring a dynamic and growth-oriented environment.

The Investment Canada Act (ICA) stands as the sentinel, its evolving legislation and policies guarding the nation’s economic interests. New pre-investment filing requirements and restrictions on foreign investments in critical sectors are the latest maneuvers in a grand strategy to safeguard Canada’s and Ontario’s economies from external vulnerabilities.

Infrastructure Investments and Construction

With a valuation nearing $400 billion, infrastructure forms the backbone of Ontario’s economy. Investments in:

are the building blocks of economic activity, catalyzing growth and ensuring the province remains a hub of dynamism and innovation.

The economic footprint of these infrastructure investments is vast and varied, with historical highs and recent levels painting a picture of strategic allocation. Housing starts in Ontario, for instance, are witnessing a stronger pulse than anticipated, indicating a robust demand for infrastructure and a promising horizon for the province’s construction sector.

Top Industries in Ontario by GDP

  • Real Estate, Rental, and Leasing
  • Manufacturing
  • Finance and Insurance
  • Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
  • Construction
  • Public Administration
  • Health Care and Social Assistance
  • Wholesale Trade

Exploring Careers in Ontario

As we draw the curtains on our exploration of Ontario’s economic pillars, we are left with an inspiring tableau of growth, diversity, and resilience. From the robust sectors that form the core of Ontario’s GDP to the innovative policies shaping its future, living in Ontario has a bright future. Carry forward the knowledge of Ontario’s economic journey, and let it inspire your own path forward.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who has the strongest economy in Canada?

British Columbia has the strongest economy in Canada, while Ontario has also shown strong growth and ranks second among the provinces.

What are Ontario's main industries?

Ontario's main industries are manufacturing, automotive, and technology, as well as real estate, rental and leasing, and finance and insurance, with a 5.7% annual unemployment rate in 2023.

How significant is the manufacturing sector in Ontario?

The manufacturing sector is significant in Ontario, making up 12.6% of the province's economy and receiving support from various initiatives and investments in advanced manufacturing and technology.

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