Comparison of Canadian and American economies
The economies of Canada and the United States are similar because they are both developed countries and are each other's largest trading partners. However, key differences in population makeup, geography, government policies and productivity all result in different economies. While both countries are in the list of top ten economies in the world in 2018, the US is the largest economy in the world, with US$20.4 trillion, with Canada ranking tenth at US$1.8 trillion. The population of Canada in July 2018 was 37,058,856 while the population of the United States was 328,928,146 in November 2018. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)'s 2018 report, Canadians pay lower personal income taxes than Americans. According to KPMG the corporate tax rate in Canada was 26.50% compared to 27% in the United States based on January 2018 data. Canada's 2017 debt-to-GDP ratio was 89.7%, compared to the United States at 107.8%. In 2016, Canada ranked 24th and the US 30th out of 35 OECD countries in terms of tax revenue to GDP ratio. In the U.S. News & World Report's "2019 Best Countries Report", which ranked 80 countries, Canada ranked 7th on Open for Business compared to the United States which ranked 48th out of the 80 countries. Canada placed first on Quality of Life, 2nd on Citizenship, 6th on Entrepreneurship, and 3rd overall. The US ranked first in terms of Power and fourth in terms of Cultural Influence.  The United States on "health outcomes, education levels and other such metrics" scores lower than other rich nations.
- 1 Current overview (2018)
- 2 International trade
- 3 Purchasing power parity
- 4 Debt-to-GDP ratio
- 5 Taxation
- 6 Unemployment
- 7 Human Development Index
- 8 The Global Gender Gap Report (WEF)
- 9 Global Liveability Ranking
- 10 Food Sustainability Index (FSI)
- 11 Government spending
- 12 Fiscal and monetary policy
- 13 Social mobility
- 14 Workforce productivity
- 15 See also
- 16 Notes
- 17 References
Current overview (2018)
This article compares the economies of Canada and the United States based on GDP, debt-to-GDP ratio, inflation, unemployment, public debt, taxation, and purchasing power parity. In 2016, Canada's tax revenue to GDP ratio was 31.7% ranking 24th out of 35 OECD countries, compared to the US at 26% ranking at 30th, according to the OECD.
The population of Canada in July 2018 was 37,058,856 while the population of the United States was 328,928,146 in November 2018, almost ten times larger than Canada. For the 2017 to 2018 period Canada's annual population growth rate was 1.4%. This was the highest annual population growth since 1989/1990. In 2016, the New York Times reported that based on December 2016 Census Bureau data, from July 2015 to July 2016, the US population increased by 2.2 million or 0.7%, represented its "smallest annual expansion in 80 years"...the slowest rate of annual growth since 1937, though census methods have changed over that time".
Based on International Monetary Fund (IMF) data reported in an April 2018 World Economic Forum article, the United States' economy increased from US$19.4 trillion in 2017 to US$20.4 trillion. The United States has the largest economy globally and Canada ranks tenth at US$1.8 trillion. Canada's GDP is similar to that of the state of Texas, which had a gross state product (GSP) of US$1.696 trillion in 2017.
The US share of the global market economy estimated at US$79.98 trillion, is c. 25%, which is down from 35% in 2005. China's global e-commerce market share has grown rapidly from less than 1% in c. 1998 to 42% in 2018. China now has second largest economy in the world with a value of US$14 trillion.
The GDP of the United States increased by 2.3% to US$19,390.6 billion compared to Canada with a GDP of US$48,265 billion and growth of 3% according to the January 2018 International Monetary Fund's (IMF) annual World Economic Outlook (WEO).
According to the IMF's 2018 annual Article IV Mission to Canada, compared to all the G7 countries, including the United States, Canada's "total government net debt-to-GDP ratio", is the lowest. Canada has been the G7 leader in economic growth since 2016. The unemployment rate in Canada is at its lowest level since c.1978. Over 600,000 full-time jobs have been created in Canada since early 2016.
The IMF's 2018 annual Article IV Mission to the United States reported that, "Unemployment is low, inflation is well contained, and growth is set to accelerate. During the course of this administration, the economy is expected to enter the longest expansion in recorded U.S. history." Topics covered include competition, debt, sustainability analysis, economic indicators, fiscal policy, fiscal sustainability, monetary policy, tax policy and trade policy.
(in Bil. US$ PPP)
|GDP per capita
(in US$ PPP)
(in % of GDP)
In 2016 the GDP per capita in Canada was 44820 compared to 57638 in the US.
(in Bil. US-Dollar)
|GDP per capita
(in % of GDP)
(in % of GDP)
|Current account |
(in % of GDP)
Canada and the United States are member states of international trade organizations, including NAFTA—replaced by the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) negotiated in 2018, G7, G20, OECD and WTO.
According to a Global Affairs Canada 2018 report, Canada's exports increased 5.7% to a record high in 2017 of $CAD546.7 billion—$29.2 billion above the exports level in 2016.:6 In 2017 imports also rose to an all-time high of $CAD1,108 billion. In 2017, Canada’s exports increased to Japan, India, South Korea, Germany, the United Kingdom, and China.:6 In September 2017, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) came into force.:6 In March 2018, Canada signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).:6 In October 2018, Canada, Mexico and the United States negotiated the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) to replace NAFTA. In October 2017, Canada began new free trade negotiations with the Pacific Alliance Latin America trade bloc—formed by Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, and in March 2018 with the Mercosur South American member countries.:6
According to Statscan, Canada's trade trade deficit shrank to CAN$416 million (US$318 million) in September 2018.
According to the August 2018 International Trade Compliance (ITC) report, in 2017, US merchandise exports increased $95.7 billion or 6.6% from $1,451.0 billion in 2016 to $1,546.7 billion. During the same period, US imports increased by $155.1 billion or 7.1% up from $2,187.8 billion in 2016. In 2017 energy-related products represented the largest increase in both imports and exports in the US.
Purchasing power parity
Based on a purchasing power parity scale, which compares the "relative purchasing power between two or more currencies",—income levels and costs are used to calculate the difference in the affordability of a similar basket of goods—in 2014, Canada was rated as 26% more expensive than the US. According to a Statistics Canada report released in 2017, the purchasing power parity (PPP) for gross domestic income was US$0.84 per Canadian dollar. Comparable items cost one dollar in Canada compared to 84 cents in the United States. Since 1999, the PPP had been "relatively stable". The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) tracks price comparisons for industrialized countries, and in June 2015 Canada was listed as 6% more expensive than the United States, when the US dollar was used as the reference currency.
Although wealth is more highly concentrated in the US, the median (50th percentile) worker has about 23% more purchasing power as well. In terms of purchasing power parity, the most recent statistics from the IMF has Canada (US$35,494) lower than that in the United States (US$43,444).
The OECD tracks member countries debt-to-GDP ratio, the "amount of a country's total gross government debt as a percentage of its GDP", as an "indicator of an economy's health and a key factor for the sustainability of government finance."
|Country||Gross public debt
as % of GDP
|Date||Total (gross) government
debt as % of GDP
debt as % of GDP
|United States||103.8||2017||107.785||82.268||2017||North America|
According to the Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau in his February 27, 2018 presentation of the Canadian federal budget for the fiscal year 2018–2019, the deficit was projected to be CDN$18.1 billion.
Personal income taxes
According to the OECD's report entitled "Taxing Wages 2018" in 2017, the "employee net average tax rate for a single person in Canada with no children was 22.8%, compared to 26.1% in the United States. Canada placed "11th lowest among 35 OECD countries". The OECD "estimates take into account federal and provincial or state taxes, as well as social security contributions and money returned in the form of family benefits".
According to a table updated to January 2018, produced by the Netherlands-based KPMG, one of the world's Big Four auditors, the corporate tax rate in Canada was 26.50% compared to 27% in the United States.
KPMG calculated the Canadian corporate tax by adding the federal and provincial tax components. The federal component is 15%. Each of the ten provinces and three territories have 2 different tax rates, one which is lower for small businesses which ranges from 0 to 4.5%, and higher for all other corporations, which ranges from 11.5 to 16%. Combined with the federal tax component the total can vary from 26.5% to 31%.
According to KPMG, the US federal corporate income tax rate was 21% for "taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017". As well, "[m]ost state and many local governments impose net income taxes" with the "top marginal rate generally rang[ing] from 0% to 12%". The "mean of the top state tax rates [was] roughly 7.5%." "[M]any states and localities impose gross receipts taxes, capital-based taxes, and other taxes that are not reflected in the rates provided". A corporation may deduct its state and local income tax expense when computing its federal taxable income, generally resulting in a net effective rate of approximately 27%."
In 2017, the unemployment rate in Canada in was 6.3%, compared to 4.4% unemployment rate in the United States. From November 2017 through October 2018, Canada's unemployment ranged from 5.8% to 6.0%.
In Canada in October 2018, 11,200 new full-time jobs were added, lowering the unemployment rate to 5.8%—a "40-year low, underpinning expectations that the Bank of Canada would keep raising interest rates". However, the "labor participation rate fell to its lowest point since October 1998—65.2%.
The US government counts the "unemployed" as "people who don’t have a job" but have "actively looked for one in the previous four weeks, and are available for work." A 2018 Bloomberg article described the "disguised unemployed", including workers described as "marginally attached" workers who are looking for work but have not actively in the last month. The "disguised unemployed" include "discouraged" workers who stopped looking because there were no jobs during the "deep and long recession". Others include 4.7 million part-time workers who want full time jobs. The government counts the "unemployed" as "people who don’t have a job" but have "actively looked for one in the previous four weeks, and are available for work." In 2014, then-Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen, said that because of the depth and length of the depression which created so many "long-term unemployed"—representing 1/3 of jobless workers, the "high number of people who are working part-time even though they want full-time jobs", and the number of people who voluntarily quit, "we shouldn't focus only on the unemployment rate." By 2014, labor force participation rate had fallen to 63% in the US, the "lowest level in a generation".
In a June 7, 2008 article in The Globe and Mail, Heather Scoffield wrote that for the first time since 1982, Canada's unemployment rate was lower than that of the United States. Scoffield said that this indicated that the economic recession was "less painful in Canada" where the May unemployment rate was 6.1% while the US rate was 5.5%. At the height of the 2008-2009 recession in Canada, unemployment peaked at 8.3 percent. The subprime mortgage crisis and the 2007–2009 which followed, increased the unemployment rate to a peak of 10% in October 2009. Since then, the unemployment rate has been steadily falling. It reached 5% in December 2015.
Human Development Index
The United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) is one of several annual composite indices published by the UNDP Human Development Report (HDR) office. The HDI ranks countries based on life expectancy, education, per capita income. Canada and the United States were placed in the very high human development category in 2017 with Canada ranking 12th, with an HDI of 0.926, and the United States ranking 13th, with an HDI of 0.924, out of 189 countries
Other HDR annual composite indices include the Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI) with Canada ranking 12th with an index of 0.852 compared to the US ranking 25th with an index of 0.797; the Gender Development Index (GDI), the Gender Inequality Index (GII), and the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).
In Canada life expectancy at birth is 82.5 and 79.5 in the US; expected years of schooling is 16.4 years in Canada and 16.5 in the US; mean years of schooling is 13.3 years in Canada and 13.4 in the US; GNI per capita (2011 PPP$) is $43,433 in Canada and $54,941 in the United States.
The Global Gender Gap Report (WEF)
In the World Economic Forum's 2017 The Global Gender Gap Report, the United States ranked 49th out of 144 countries, compared with Canada at 16th. The US ranked "82nd out of 144 in the subcategory that measures the differences between women’s and men’s health".
Global Liveability Ranking
Based on the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) annual Global Liveability Ranking, comparing 140 cities worldwide for urban quality of life based on assessments of stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. For a number of years, Canada's cities—Calgary—#4 in 2018, #5 in 2017, Vancouver—#1 from 2002 to 2010, #3 in 2017 Toronto #4 in 2017, Montreal, and Ottawa—have ranked among the top 10 livable cities in the world.
The U.S. News & World Report's "2019 Best Countries Report", which is produced in collaboration with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the BAV Group, ranked 80 countries based on 65 attributes including Adventure, Citizenship, Cultural Influence, Entrepreneurship, Heritage, Movers, Open for Business, Power and Quality of Life. Canada, with an overall score of 97 out of 100, ranked third out of the 80 countries. The US scored 92. Canada ranked first on Quality of Life, and second on Citizenship, sixth on Entrepreneurship, seventh on Open for Business, twelfth on Power and Cultural Influence. Canada ranked 3rd overall and the US ranked 8th. The US ranked first in terms of Power and fourth in terms of Cultural Influence. The US placed 48th out of the 80 countries in terms of being Open for Business.
Food Sustainability Index (FSI)
Based on rankings of the Food Sustainability Index, 2018, by Economist Intelligence Unit and the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation, an annual index that grades 67 countries based on "food waste, sustainable agriculture, and health and nutrition", Canada placed third with a score of 75.3 out of 100. The United States had a low score and did not make the top twenty list, "due to an overweight population with low physical activity and diets high in sugar, meat, saturated fat and sodium. According to Martin Koehring, editor at The Economist Intelligence Unit, the US ranked 21st out of 34 countries in the 2017 FSI in overall food sustainability. In 2017, the US where 42% of children are overweight, the "sugar content of diets" was the highest of participating countries. The US also has the highest level of meat consumption in the world, at "225.4 g per day, average per-head. In 2017, the US ranked 31st out of 34 countries in terms of sustainable agriculture. India, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had lower scores. Sustainable agriculture is measured based on "a high level of GHG emissions from the agricultural sector, a low proportion of land set aside for organic farming (less than 1% of the total) and a relatively large amount of land (around 22%) devoted to biofuel production and animal feed."
Government spending refers to public expenditure on goods and services.
General revenue (Canada)
In FY2017 the Canadian federal government spent $311 billion. Elderly benefits, which "cost $48.1 billion, or 15 cents of every tax dollar"—which include the Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS)—represented the "biggest single expense". Unlike the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), the "OAS and GIS are funded through general revenues—they not independently funded". Other expenses included "All other departments and agencies" $51 billion, Other transfer payments 41.5 billion, Canada Health Transfer 36 billion, National Defence 25 billion, Public Debt Charges 24.15 billion, Children's Benefits 22 billion, Employment Insurance 20.7 billion, Fiscal Arrangements 17.1 billion, Canada Social Transfer 4.3 billion, Crown Corporations 8 billion, and Gas Tax Fund 2 billion.
Mandatory and discretionary spending (United States)
The United States federal budget includes mandatory spending, discretionary spending, and interest on debt. In the United States in 2017, mandatory spending totaled $2.5 trillion or 13.1% of GDP and included Social security $939 billion or 4.9% of GDP, Medicare 591 billion or 3.1% GDP, Medicaid $375 billion or 2.0% of GDP, and Other 614 billion or 3.2% GDP. Discretionary spending totaled $1.2 trillion or 6.3% of GDP and included Defense 590 billion or 3.1%GDP, and Nondefense 610 billion or 3.2% GDP. Interest on debt totaled 263 billion representing 1.4% of GDP.
The United States spends more on health care than Canada. According to the OECD 2015 report comparing 35 OECD member countries, "spending per person on health care remained highest in the United States (CDN$11,916)". Canada spent CDN$5,782 per capita on health care in 2015. In their 2017 report, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) estimated that total health expenditure would reach "$242.0 billion or $6,604 per Canadian in 2017" representing 11.5% of Canada’s GDP.:4 and total healthcare spending is much higher - 14.6% of GDP in the US vs. 10% in Canada.
Healthcare coverage is universal for Canadians, and transferable outside a home province within Canada. In the United States, however, the most common complaint is that approximately 50 million people are uninsured, and thus do not have access to even the most basic healthcare services which Canadians have access to. This puts a burden on the emergency room services in the States and causes increases in healthcare costs significantly.Canadians, however, receive better care to those Americans who receive treatment, and result measures.
In Canada, health care is mostly paid through employee income taxes, while in the United States most companies choose to extend health benefits to full-time employees. The most common complaint regarding the Canadian system are the long lines and waiting periods that have appeared for minor and non-life-threatening procedures over the last 15 years, since the introduction of widespread cuts to public funding. Separately, a number of medical tests and screenings are not covered (or due to increasing costs, are no longer covered) by the Canadian health system, forcing patients to pay for these services out of their own pockets. For these reasons, some relatively wealthy Canadians undergo treatment at private healthcare facilities at their own expense, either in Canada, in India, or in other nations to avoid waiting for medical treatment, joining "medical tourists" from many nations, including the US. Despite these sporadic problems, Canada's healthcare performance has been of higher quality on most factors. Efforts were made to reduce wait times by many provincial governments in the 1990s and 2000s, in an effort to improve care.
Fiscal and monetary policy
Inflation and the consumer price index
In Canada in September 2018, the consumer price index (CPI) rose 2.2% on a year-over-year basis. The Bank of Canada's monthly CPI measures changes in consumer prices based on the price of a "fixed basket of goods and services" purchased by Canadian consumers, such as made up of goods and services that Canadians typically buy, such as food, housing, transportation, furniture, clothing, recreation, and other items, with the target of maintaining the rate of inflation (the "year-over-year increase in the total CPI) at 2%—"midpoint of an inflation-control target range of 1 to 3%". On October 24, 2018 the Bank of Canada raised its benchmark interest rate to 1.75%, the highest it has reached in ten years to prevent inflation. The key interest rate had been kept low in response to the 2008 economic slowdown. By raising the rate, the Bank of Canada is indicating that the Canadian economy no longer needs "stimulus."
According to a OECD publication entitled A Broken Social Elevator? How to Promote Social Mobility, with the rise in income inequality since the 1990s, social mobility has shifted so that fewer people in the bottom quintiles have moved up the ladder; those in the higher quintiles remain wealthy. Based on the OECD average in this 2018 report, it takes an estimated 4 generations for a low-income family in Canada to earn the Canadian average income; the OECD average is an estimated 4.5 generations and in the United States it takes 5 generations or 150 years to earn the American average income. See Socioeconomic mobility in the United States and Socio-economic mobility in Canada.
Labor or workforce productivity measures the efficiency with which labor is used to produce goods and services. According to a 2017 Conference Board of Canada article, in 2015 "Canada's level of labour productivity was US$49 per hour worked, much lower than that of the United States, at US$63." Alberta's level was 99%. The lowest was in Prince Edward Island at 58%. The article noted that over previous five year period, Canada "outperformed" the US on "labour productivity growth". In May 2018, Statistics Canada reported that across Canada, labor productivity rose 2.2%; the increase in 2016 was 0.6%.
According to a 2004 article, Canadian workers were estimated to be 82% as productive per hour as their American counterparts. The industries with the largest productivity advantages for the US are the manufacturing (particularly electronics and computer), finance, and service sectors. Industries where Canada is more productive than the US are the construction and natural resources sectors with Canadian workers achieving 129% relative productivity.
The productivity gap was even larger in the 1950s but the difference narrowed, aided by the elimination of the smaller market problem through free trade. The gap closed somewhat in the 1980s but at a much slower pace than in the 1960s. From 1961 to 1973 labour productivity rose annually by 3.3 percent in Canada and 1.7 percent in the United States. According to a 1997 IMF report, from 1973 to 1995 productivity growth was 1.1% in Canada and 0.8% in the United States.
The productivity gap began to widen again in the 1990s, particularly in the manufacturing sector. According to a 2005 article, by 2000, this was called Canada's "Excellence Gap" by the Chief Economist of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters. The United States has the second-highest productivity of the G8 countries, while Canada's is 5th based on the 1997 estimate.
Five main reasons for the productivity gap: the lower capital intensity of economic activity in Canada; an innovation gap in Canada relative to the United States; Canada's relatively underdeveloped high-tech sector; and more limited economies of scale and scope in Canada.
- This table has been adapted from the table in the article Economy of Canada.
- This table has been adapted from the table in the article Economy of the United States.
- This table is a revised and reduced version of the table in List of countries by public debt. See the page history for more information.
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Labour productivity is a measure of real gross domestic product per hour worked. Productivity gains occur when the production of goods and services grows faster than the volume of work dedicated to their production...Economic performance, as measured by labour productivity, must be interpreted carefully, as these data reflect changes in other inputs, in particular capital, in addition to the efficiency growth of production processes. As well, growth in labour productivity is often influenced by the degree of diversity in the industrial structure. As a result, labour productivity tends to be more volatile in the smaller provinces.
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