OTTAWA — Labour market challenges could be an ongoing preoccupation across Ontario as unemployment rates return to pre-pandemic lows and construction demand in the residential and non-residential sectors is sustained through at least 2026.
BuildForce Canada published its 2022–2027 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for the province on March 15. The report indicated Ontario’s construction and maintenance sector experienced a slight decline in employment in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but bounced back in 2021 on the strength of a surge in new-housing construction and a significant rise, five per cent, in non-residential investment.
Demands are unlikely to change through the remainder of the forecast period, BuildForce said.
Total construction employment in Ontario is anticipated to reach a peak in 2023 when it rises by 13,400 workers, or three per cent, compared to 2021 levels. Following that period, the residential and non-residential sectors will pull labour demands in different directions. As demand for new-home construction recedes after 2023, employment in the residential sector is forecasted to decline by more than 11,000 workers, or approximately five per cent of the 2021 workforce, to 2027.
Meanwhile, demands created by major infrastructure projects will increase the non-residential construction workforce by 23,000 (an increase of 12 per cent over the 2021 labour force) through 2026. Recent career promotional activities are showing early signs of success. In the non-residential sector, the number of new entrants to the industry are expected to exceed the number of workers exiting due to retirements throughout the forecast period.
“Ontario’s construction and maintenance industry showed tremendous resilience throughout the pandemic in 2020,” said Bill Ferreira, executive director of BuildForce Canada, in a release. “By shifting resources, 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.”