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Canada’s construction industry in slow growth mode

February 1, 2017  By BuildForce Canada

Feb. 1, 2017 – After two years of decline, construction activity in Canada is expected to edge slightly higher this year. Growth overall will be slower and uneven across the provinces, with the anticipated start and finish of major projects and downturn in residential building. One of the biggest challenges across the entire industry this decade is offsetting the rapid retirement of an estimated 21 percent of the country’s construction workforce, according to the latest labour market forecast released today by BuildForce Canada.

“That impending wave of baby boom retirements we’ve been hearing so much about is here,” said Rosemary Sparks, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “This decade, as many as 248,000 skilled workers are retiring en masse. It’s a tremendous loss of experience that’s even harder to make up in a slow economy.”

BuildForce Canada’s 2017-2026 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward forecast shows construction activity is expected to soften across most provinces as new residential activity declines and major projects reach completion. Labour requirements will vary by province with resource-driven markets such as Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador continuing to weaken as current projects wind down. In other provinces, including British Columbia, New Brunswick and Ontario, ongoing work along with the anticipated start of planned utility, pipeline, transportation and other infrastructure projects will create new job opportunities. The timing of proposed projects vary and labour requirements are unevenly distributed across the provinces. Over the latter half of the forecast period, project completions and declining housing activity return construction employment back to near 2016 levels in most provinces.

Non-Residential: Key regions where new job opportunities are anticipated:

  • NB: Pipeline, marine terminal and hydro dam refurbishment projects increase employment demands;
  • ON: Major transit infrastructure projects and nuclear refurbishment projects add to employment opportunities across the forecast period;
  • MB: Major hydro development and transmission projects sustain employment requirements.
  • BC: Pipeline, LNG, transportation and mining projects drive job growth.

Residential: Housing activity is expected to moderate in the two largest residential markets — British Columbia and Ontario.

Over the short term, residential employment requirements strengthen in Alberta and Manitoba and continue to track downward in Quebec as well as Atlantic Canada over the long term. Residential construction employment is expected to decline by 7 percent, only partially offset by steady but moderate increases in renovation activity.

“Not attracting and training enough young workers is a huge risk for the construction industry,” added Sparks. “With thousands of new workers needed to replace retirees, industry can’t afford to take its foot off the gas.”

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