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Construction workforce prospects bright for Atlantic provinces in near term: BuildForce

Construction workforce prospects bright for Atlantic provinces in near term: BuildForce

OTTAWA — Canada’s four Atlantic provinces will experience strong construction employment in 2022 before moderating towards 2027, according to a new labour market forecast prepared by BuildForce Canada.

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, to the end of 2027, while New Brunswick’s construction market strengthened in 2021, and should reach a peak in 2022, before receding modestly through 2027.

Nova Scotia’s construction market is in the midst of a period of sustained growth propelled by major public-sector investments and rising demands for new residential construction. The factors will combine to bring sectoral employment to a peak in 2023, before receding slightly through 2027.

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. Activity will moderate after 2023 and through 2027, however, as key projects wind down and labour markets will return to more balanced conditions. BuildForce’s 2022–2027 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for the four provinces was published March 14, with outlooks for the other provinces and a national forecast for the next six years to be unrolled the rest of the week.

The report suggests an aging workforce presents a significant challenge for Newfoundland and Labrador’s construction industry. The province is expected to lose as 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.

Although there are a number of proposed projects being tracked, with no new major projects currently scheduled to start during the forecast period, the province’s labour-supply challenge may exacerbate skills shortages, said BuildForce, as training opportunities for younger workers will be limited.

New registrations in Newfoundland’s 13 largest construction trade programs have been falling at an average rate of 14 per cent per year since 2016.

As for New Brunswick, BuildForce suggests near-term demand for construction services will come in the new-home and 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.

After the 2022 peak, construction employment in New Brunswick will moderate and eventually decline by an estimated 684 workers (3.4 per cent of the 2021 workforce) by 2027.

BuildForce anticipates overall construction employment in Nova Scotia to rise by 1,900 workers (seven per cent) before receding after the 2023 peak, leaving employment higher by 250 workers by 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 Bill Ferreira, executive director of BuildForce Canada, in a statement. “Our longer-term outlook sees non-residential demand ease as major projects wind down, while activity in the residential sector shifts from housing starts to renovation work.”

As for Canada’s smallest province, BuildForce’s labour market forecast 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.

P.E.I.’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.

Registrations in P.E.I.’s seven largest construction trades programs increased by more than 70 per cent over the six-year period between 2013 and 2019.

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