OTTAWA — The Ontario construction and maintenance sector continues to operate at close to full capacity driven by high volumes of investment in public- and private-sector infrastructure and residential activity, states the labour market forecast released by BuildForce Canada Feb. 4.
BuildForce Canada’s 2020–2029 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward provincial report predicts that both residential and non-residential sector demand will create two distinct labour market peaks — the first in 2020 and the second in 2026. BuildForce anticipates that construction employment will rise by just over 23,000 workers (six per cent) by 2026 before receding by close to 13,600 workers as major projects wind down.
The non-residential sector will be the primary driver of labour market peaks. The 2020 peak is driven by major public transportation projects, institutional building construction and modernization, and overlapping demands from two major nuclear refurbishment projects in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Southwestern Ontario.
Coinciding subway expansions and regional rail electrification projects in the GTA and large hospital projects are expected to fuel demand for key trades between 2024 and 2025. Non-residential market pressures are expected to persist to the 2026 peak, driven by ongoing and significant investments in public infrastructure, indicates the report.
According to the report, the industry will need to hire, train, and retain almost 100,000 additional workers to keep pace with expected demand growth and record retirements.
“The province is expected to experience low construction unemployment, high labour demand and high numbers of anticipated retirements across the scenario period,” said Bill Ferreira, executive director of BuildForce Canada, in a statement. “The industry will need to remain focused on recruitment and training to meet demands for expansion and worker replacement over the coming decade.”
The report also provides a breakdown by regions across the province:
- Southwestern Ontario is set to experience the largest relative increase in growth in 2020, driven by the start of refurbishment work at the Bruce Power nuclear plant, acceleration in demands related to the Gordie Howe International Bridge in Windsor, and the Nova Chemicals plant in Sarnia. Non-residential employment is expected to rise a further 1,400 workers in 2020, or six per cent from 2019, following an increase of close to 2,500 workers in 2019.
- The GTA will likely require an additional 3,700 workers to meet demands in 2020. The increase is driven by a rise in major project requirements related to the Eglinton, Hurontario, and Finch (LRT) projects, as well as ongoing work at the Ontario Power Generation Darlington nuclear refurbishment project. Planned subway and health-sector investments, alongside moderate growth in residential construction, will contribute to the need for an additional 19,400 workers by 2026 – a 12 per cent increase over 2019.
- In Eastern Ontario, phase two of the Ottawa LRT, the redevelopment of Parliament Hill’s Centre Block and other federal buildings, new hospital projects in both Ottawa and Kingston, and the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) research and development complex in Chalk River will drive demands for an additional 3,400 workers needed by 2024, or a seven per cent increase over 2019.
- Significant near-term demands in Northern Ontario are driven by mining, mineral-processing, and large-scale transmission infrastructure investments. Construction employment is projected to rise by close to 2,100 workers by 2021 – a nine per cent increase over 2019, before declining to 2024.
- Central Ontario is benefiting, in part, from the spillover of expansion in the GTA. Modest growth across residential and non-residential sectors should increase labour force requirements by 2,900 workers over the decade.
Stay tuned for industry reaction to this labour market news for Ontario in the Daily Commercial News.