Over the next decade, two main trends will impact Canada’s construction industry, according to a new report by BuildForce Canada.
First, employment growth will slow since many workers are nearing retirement. At the same time, the industry isn’t attracting young talent and, thus, fewer new jobs are being created across the country.
Over the last three years, the industry added 62,400 jobs. In comparison, says the report, only about 81,000 jobs will be added over the next ten years.
The second (and shorter-term) trend is companies are focusing more on constructing supporting systems than on building new resource developments due to dipping commodity prices—support systems help maintain existing infrastructure such as pipelines, and distribution and transportation systems, while new resource developments help boost production.
Impact on housing
Between 2015 and 2024, renovation work will be more prevalent than housing starts. In fact, says the report, “more than half of the investment in residential construction will be dedicated to renovation and maintenance work.”
Read: Housing starts stable
And, as years pass, renovation work will continue to be the focus since fewer new houses will be built and existing houses will still need to be repaired. One problem, says the report, is “it may be hard to find the specialized and experienced workers that are needed to both build and renovate homes” as the construction workforce dwindles.
When it comes to non-residential construction, “work on electricity generation and distribution, pipelines and transportation systems [will] all [be] major contributors to new construction jobs, with many new projects starting between 2015 and 2017.”
In most of Western Canada, more construction projects will be proposed over the next few years, according to the report.
In B.C., which is expected to lead all other provinces, “big engineering projects are starting, and commercial and residential building is gaining momentum,” says Rosemary Sparks, executive director of BuildForce Canada. “These industry dynamics will create a lot of new construction jobs, and the need for steady recruiting and training.”
Meanwhile, hydroelectric and transmission projects will drive job growth in Manitoba, and large-scale resource and infrastructure projects will start up in Saskatchewan.
Alberta’s a different story, says the report, since declining oil prices are currently impacting its construction industry, resulting in project cancellations, delays and job losses.
But “the industry will recover,” says Sparks. “It’s early to pinpoint when that will happen, [but] our forecast projects a near-term recovery, with jobs in engineering construction rising gradually [between] 2018 and 2024, as oil prices come back up.”
In Eastern Canada, construction levels are expected to peak between now and 2020, particularly in New Brunswick and Newfoundland. In the latter province, says the report, “resource construction growth has dominated the economy for 10 years, [and] the outlook scenario projects a cyclical path. In the end, a moderate decline in employment [will be seen] by 2024.
“As resource projects are completed between 2016 and 2018, for example, a large portion of the out-of- province workforce will return home, restoring a more normal level and mix of construction activity.”
In New Brunswick, it adds, “the 2015 scenario projects employment opportunities over the medium term, from 2016 to 2020 […] But peaks in pipeline, marine terminal and mining projects will tighten labour markets in 2017 and 2020.” So, employment will rise mildly by 3% between now and 2024.
In P.E.I, “construction employment gains [will occur] in most years due to steady demand for new housing and commercial building.” At the same time, labour shortages in Nova Scotia will be a major concern.