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SME exporters show encouraging signs of recovery

Canada’s exporters have been greatly impacted by the pandemic, particularly due to the increased restrictions on production and economic activity and drop in demand worldwide. Early data show that small and medium‑sized enterprises (SMEs)Footnote1 experienced a sharper decline in the number of exporters compared to large firms. In just one month—April—the number of SME goods exporters declined by more than 3,000 firms, or 16.5%, compared to a 9.2% decline in the number of large exporting firms.

During the Summer as economies began reopening, SME exporters benefitted and began to recover. In just a few months, the number of exporters has grown significantly, rising to levels just 4.2% below those of February. The value of SME goods exports experienced an even bigger resurgence, and as of July stood at 6.1% above pre‑pandemic levels. This stands in contrast to large firms which have experienced large sustained declines in the value of their exports (-7.3% during February‑July).

Source: Office of the Chief Economist, Global Affairs Canada
Data: Statistics Canada, Trade in Exporter Characteristics

The Upshot

While Canadian exporters experienced significant challenges in the face of the pandemic, SME exporters have experienced a notable recovery in both the number of firms and the value of their exports. This resiliency bodes well going into the next phase of a highly uncertain economic recovery.


1 SMEs are firms with 0‑499 employees; they accounted for 97% of all Canadian exporters in 2019.

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