OTTAWA — BuildForce Canada forecasts Ontario’s ICI construction sector will continue to grow towards a peak in 2028, putting pressure on already tight recruiting conditions in the province.
Ontario’s largest market, the Greater Toronto Area, will be supported by a series of large-scale projects that bring non-residential employment to a max in 2027, says BuildForce. Meanwhile, the GTA’s residential sector is expected to emerge from a short contraction by 2024. Overall construction employment in the GTA should grow by 27,200 workers (16 per cent) over 2022 levels by 2032.
The forecasts are found in the 2023–2032 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for Ontario released April 25.
The report finds labour markets for many of Ontario’s construction trades and occupations were strained at the end of 2022. Despite rising interest rates, activity in the residential sector remained strong, spurred by high levels of migration into the province and high levels of renovation activity. Meanwhile, the province’s non-residential sector continues to be buoyed by the long list of major projects in nearly every region.
Looking across the 10-year forecast period across the province, employment is expected to reach a peak of 16 per cent above 2022 levels in 2027 as work culminates on many major projects.
Key projects include light-rail transit and subway projects in major urban centres, ongoing nuclear refurbishments at Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation, and major health-sector and other institutional projects across all regions.
The outlook for the complete forecast period sees construction and maintenance employment rising to a peak in 2028, by which time it will have increased by nearly eight per cent above 2022 levels. By 2032, it is expected to slow to five per cent above 2022 levels, with growth pronounced in the non-residential sector (up 11 per cent) and a more modest expansion of two per cent forecast for the residential sector.
“Ontario’s construction and maintenance sector is poised for a number of years of strong growth,” said BuildForce Canada executive director Bill Ferreira. “Its challenge will be working within already-taxed labour markets.”
Long term, in central Ontario, non-residential employment will be sustained by a combination of major engineering-construction projects, many of them in the Hamilton area. Total construction employment is anticipated to add one per cent over 2022 levels, with increases exclusive to the non-residential sector.
Eastern Ontario reported some of the tightest labour markets in the province in 2022, with most trades and occupations strained. The regional market is benefiting from a series of high-value public-sector projects, including the second phase of Ottawa’s light rail line and the refurbishment of several federal buildings.
New hospital projects in Ottawa and Kingston add to market demands in later years in the region. Overall employment rises to a peak in 2027 and moderates thereafter.
The construction market in northern Ontario is heavily influenced by activity in the mining and utility sectors and also large institutional projects. Non-residential employment should be sustained at elevated levels through at least 2027.
Southwestern Ontario’s non-residential sector begins the forecast period operating at elevated levels, with ongoing work on the Bruce Power nuclear refurbishment, the Gordie Howe bridge, new battery manufacturing and auto retooling investments, and a significant rise in industrial shutdown/turnaround maintenance work in Sarnia.
The proposed start of the Windsor acute care hospital in 2026 adds to employment later in the period.
Across the province, the expected retirement of more than 82,600 workers (18 per cent of the 2022 labour force) will increase overall industry hiring requirements to nearly 119,000 over the forecast period.
Due in part to increased and targeted promotional efforts, the provincial construction industry has grown the number of young workers under the age of 25 in its labour force by seven per cent since 2019.
Across the entire forecast period, it is expected to recruit approximately 88,400 new entrants under the age of 30 from within the province. This leaves a projected gap of almost 30,500 workers that will need to be filled from a variety of sources.
New registrations in the province’s 32 largest trade programs reached record levels in 2019 and have risen faster than employment over the past decade as a whole, leading to an increased supply of journeypersons. But women represented just four per cent of the more than 435,000 tradespeople employed in Ontario in 2022, unchanged from 2021.
BuildForce says many trades may be at risk of undersupplying the number of new journeypersons required by 2032.