Construction Sector Council Labour Market Indicators Update


The Construction Sector Council recently released its annual National and Provincial Summaries detailing the coming trends forecasted within construction markets of Canada. The reports detail labour mobility trends, sector growth and potential issues facing the construction industry within Canada, and within each provincial market. The Construction Sector Council assesses future market conditions based on information collected from owners, contractors, labour groups and governments. PCAC was involved in providing some of this information and in the committee work which preceded publication of the report.

According to the report, Canada is well underway in its recovery from the economic recession of 2008 and 2009. Construction continues to be a leading growth industry across the country and helps to drive the overall economic recovery.  Going forward, two factors will determine the direction of the industry.

The changing demographics of the country will lead to a slowdown in residential construction. As the workforce gradually gets older on average, the need for new housing developments will gradually grow smaller creating a long-term gradual reduction in residential work.As the Canadian work force increases, declining residential employment is expected, with most provinces having only a limited potential for new housing construction growth. This will lead to relatively weak opportunity for residential based trades within each province. Only Ontario and Alberta residential construction will differ, with regular cyclical rebounds. In contrast, a number of upcoming government and industry planned large resource projects will drive non-residential work to near record levels across Canada and specifically in Alberta and Ontario.

As with the National Economy, Ontario and Alberta will see a period of recovery during the 2011 and 2012 seasons and will see employment levels steadily push back to 2008 historic highs, with an expected  push past them soon after 2012. The recovery and following expansion in Alberta will be driven by new construction and capital investment, ongoing maintenance and sustaining capital projects. Ontario will see a similar period of recovery and expansion driven by new infrastructure stimulus projects, utility, institutional, commercial, mining and large resource projects. Unlike in Alberta however, Ontario growth will be slanted regionally, with a large focus on the Greater Toronto Area.

While the stimulus program will end in 2011, job loss is expected to be minimal as expanding public transit projects, new mining and processing facilities and the 2015 Pan Am infrastructure will cover any losses. (See Ontario notes below for more on these projects)

The recovery and expansion of the construction industry will affect the labour supply. Current levels will continue to rise and hit peak level on par with those in 2008, with unemployment dropping. As the workforce grows older and workers exit through retirement, jobs will need to be filled.

The Construction Sector Council forecast that the usual level of new entrants to the industry will not be enough to fill the needed level of labour.

Estimated labour needs exceed 320 000 workers across Canada, with around 163 000 being met by new entrants, leaving a net need of almost 157 000 workers.

Alberta is expected to have almost 30 000 new jobs created with a further 35 000 exits from the industry. 26 000 new entrants are expected to make up some the need but a net need of up to 40 000 workers remains. Ontario is expected to have 85 000 new jobs created, combined with an exit of 73 000 workers. New entrants are expected to fill up to 60 000 jobs but a gap of almost 100 000 workers will exist.

The expected labour shortages will create a renewed need to focus on new recruitment methods within the construction industry. A need to focus on youth, Aboriginal, women, workers from other industries and foreign workers will become more and more apparent as the need for labour steadily rises. Workforce innovation, such as modular construction, pre-fabrication and other productivity enhancing technologies and methods – including skills enhancement and workforce organization –  can be developed to fill skilled labour needs. The shift away from residential construction will also help in this regard.  Overall, present levels of labour mobility and availability are not enough to sustain the long term need in the construction industry. As the growth in the industry continues, this need will become an ever present problem and will require action from government and the industry.

PCAC has taken a proactive stance on this problem. We continue to work with industry associations and groups across the country to promote apprenticeship and the trades and to introduce new communities into the trades. Our inititiatives with Women Building Futures and aboriginal communities are examples of this.

We are also working to remove barriers to entrance into the trades, particularly in areas where poorly targeted regulation promises to exacerbate existing shortages. PCAC has been active in combatting trends which will create further barriers to new workers entering the industry, such as increasing compulsory certification, or the failure to lower apprenticeship/journeyperson rations.