Canada is one of the world's wealthiest nations with a high per capita income, a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Group of Eight (G8). Canada is a free market economy with slightly more government intervention than the United States, but much less than most European nations Canada has traditionally had a lower per capita gross domestic product (GDP) than its southern neighbour (whereas wealth has been more equally divided), but higher than the large western European economies. For the past decade, the Canadian economy has been growing rapidly with low unemployment and large government surpluses on the federal level. Today Canada closely resembles the U.S. in its market-oriented economic system, pattern of production, and high living standards. While as of October 2006, Canada's national unemployment rate of 6.3% is among its lowest in 30 years, provincial unemployment rates vary from a low of 3.6% in Alberta to a high of 14.6% in Newfoundland and Labrador.
In the past century, the growth of the manufacturing, mining, and service sectors has transformed the nation from a largely rural economy into one primarily industrial and urban. As with other first world nations, the Canadian economy is dominated by the service industry, which employs about three quarters of Canadians. However, Canada is unusual among developed countries in the importance of the primary sector, with the logging and oil industries being two of Canada's most important.
Canada is one of the few developed nations that is a net exporter of energy. Atlantic Canada has vast offshore deposits of natural gas and large oil and gas resources are centred in Alberta. The vast Athabasca Tar Sands give Canada the world's second largest reserves of oil behind Saudi Arabia. In Quebec, British Columbia, Newfoundland & Labrador, Ontario and Manitoba, hydroelectric power is a cheap and relatively environmentally friendly source of abundant energy.
Canada is one of the world's most important suppliers of agricultural products, with the Canadian Prairies one of the most important suppliers of wheat and other grains. Canada is the world's largest producer of zinc and uranium and a world leader in many other natural resources such as gold, nickel, aluminum, and lead; many, if not most, towns in the northern part of the country, where agriculture is difficult, exist because of a nearby mine or source of timber. Canada also has a sizeable manufacturing sector centred in southern Ontario and Quebec, with automobiles and aeronautics representing particularly important industries.
Canada is highly dependent on international trade, especially trade with the United States. The 1989 Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (which included Mexico) touched off a dramatic increase in trade and economic integration with the U.S. Since 2001, Canada has successfully avoided economic recession and has maintained the best overall economic performance in the G8. Since the mid 1990s, Canada's federal government has posted annual budgetary surpluses and has steadily paid down the national debt.