Ottawa, ON — BuildForce Canada’s has come out with its latest labour market forecast. The “2022-2027 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward” reports, analyses, and incorporate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry as of the fall of 2021.
Despite a slight decline in employment within the construction and maintenance sector in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario bounced back in 2021 with a surge in new housing construction and a significant rise (up five per cent) in non-residential investment. However, the report highlights that demands are unlikely to change through the forecast period, and labour challenges may result.
“Ontario’s construction and maintenance industry showed tremendous resilience throughout the pandemic in 2020. By shifting resources, and effectively managing risk and new health protocols, as well as expectations, the industry quickly rebounded in 2021. However, ongoing strong employment demands and a lag in the return to the labour force of some older workers contributed to labour supply constraints for most trades and occupations and pushed unemployment rates in the province’s construction labour force to near-record-low levels,” said Bill Ferreira, executive director of BuildForce Canada
Total construction employment in Ontario is anticipated to peak in 2023 when it rises by three per cent, roughly 13,400 workers, compared to 2021 levels. However, BuildForce Canada expects around 56,300 workers (13 per cent) to retire over the forecast period, and the province will need to add roughly 71,800 workers.
As per the report, a surge in new housing construction alongside solid government investment in education, health care, public transit, and road, highway, and bridge construction fuelled strong growth in Quebec’s construction market in 2021.
However, residential construction activity, which benefited from strong levels of net migration to the province for the past several years, is expected to level off with slowing population growth. Overall, residential employment requirements are sustained over the near term to 2024, as increased renovation and maintenance work offset declines in new housing construction from recent high levels.
BuildForce Canada predicts that construction employment will rise to a peak in 2023 and is mostly sustained into 2024 before receding across the second half of the six-year forecast period. The province is expected to lose around 28,800 workers (13 per cent) of the current labour force to retirement by 2027. As a result, Quebec will need to attract around 25,100 new workers over the forecast period.
Nova Scotia’s construction market is in the midst of a period of sustained growth propelled by significant public-sector investments and rising demands for new residential construction, according to BuildForce Canada’s report. These factors will combine to increase sectoral employment in 2023, before receding sightly through 2027.
“Nova Scotia’s economy experienced a more moderate decline in real GDP in 2020 compared to other provinces, and we estimate that growth will surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2022, driven by increased exports and strong residential, non-residential, and government capital expenditures to 2024,” said Ferreira.
The report highlights that overall construction employment will rise by 1,900 workers (seven per cent) to a peak in 2023 before receding, leaving employment higher by 250 workers by 2027. Nova Scotia is expected to lose as many as 5,200 workers (16 per cent of its 2021 workforce) to retirement between 2022 and 2027. Coupled with the anticipated rise in employment demands, the industry will need to recruit an estimated 6,200 additional workers by 2027.
New Brunswick’s construction market strengthened in 2021 and should peak in 2022 before receding modestly through 2027. The report suggests that the near-term demand for construction services will come in the new home, industrial, commercial, and institutional building sectors. Residential demands will remain at or near recent highs through 2024, while the completion of major institutional projects will lower non-residential demands through 2026.
“Although construction employment in the province surpassed pre-pandemic levels in 2021, labour force growth has been more sluggish. A pullback in labour force participation during the pandemic, particularly among older workers, has contributed to a decline in available workers and rates of industry unemployment that the province has not experienced since its 2011 peak in construction activity,” said Ferreira.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador’s construction and maintenance industry will reach an employment peak in 2023 before contracting by about 16 per cent, or nearly 2,300 workers, by the end of 2027.
“The outlook for 2022 to 2024 has strengthened with the surge in housing starts expected to be sustained near recent highs, and with the expected start of work on a key mining project and the restart of the West White Rose offshore platform. The longer-term outlook for the province, however, remains constrained by older age demographics, slowing population growth, and the wind-down of current major projects,” said Ferreira.
As referenced above, an aging workforce is a major challenge for the province’s construction industry. The province is expected to lose many as 3,380 workers, or 17 per cent of its current labour force, to retirement between 2022 and 2027. Over the same period, it is expected to recruit just 1,800 new workers aged 30 or younger from the local population.
Prince Edward Island
Construction employment in Prince Edward Island enjoyed a recovery in 2021 and should continue to grow through 2022 on the strength of increased residential and non-residential demands, as reported by BuildForce Canada. Activity will moderate after 2023 and through 2027, however, as key projects wind down and labour markets will return to more balanced conditions.
“Construction employment in Prince Edward Island will peak in 2022 as the province’s housing market continues its recent strong performance and the non-residential sector ramps back up with increased institutional and engineering investments,” said Ferreira.
BuildForce Canada’s labour market forecast for Prince Edward Island projects that employment in the province’s construction and maintenance industry will gain 400 workers (seven per cent) through the end of 2022 before retreating moderately (3.6 per cent below 2021 levels) through 2027.
The report mentions that the major challenge currently facing the industry is the immediate requirements for large numbers of skilled and experienced workers across almost all of its key trades and occupations. As a result, the province’s construction industry will need to recruit 975 additional workers through 2027 to keep pace with labour force demands and to replace almost 950 retiring workers, or 14 per cent of its 2021 construction labour force.
The report highlights that Manitoba’s construction market is set to continue its recovery through 2022, as new provincial infrastructure spending offsets the winding down of activity at the Hydro Manitoba Keeyask dam project. In the long term, construction demands are expected to moderate.
It is expected that employment in Manitoba will peak in 2022 due to peak requirements in the residential (up two per cent) and non-residential (plus 3.4 per cent) construction sectors. However, it is also expected that the province will lose nearly 11 per cent, roughly 4,500 workers, to retirement in 2027.
“Historically, Manitoba has benefitted from a younger workforce more than most provinces, and this fact should stand the province in good stead over the forecast period,” said Ferreira.
As a result, the industry anticipates it will attract an estimated 5,400 new workers under the age of 30 from the local population.
Following a significant pullback in 2020, Saskatchewan’s construction market recovered in 2021 thanks to new housing activity. As per the report, additional growth is expected in 2022 due to a further rise in renovation activity before levelling off as housing starts to moderate.
“Saskatchewan’s construction market is expected to remain on an upward trend through 2023, driven by residential activity, major public expenditures and the anticipated start of a potash mine expansion, a canola processing plant and a natural gas power plant in Moose Jaw,” said Ferreira.
BuildForce Canada expects that nearly 5,000 workers, or 13 per cent of Saskatchewan’s 2021 construction labour force, will exit the workforce through retirement in the next six years. It is expected that the province will need to add 1,100 workers, bringing the total recruitment requirement to 6,100 workers between 2022 and 2027.