New Brunswick sees sustained, strong near term construction demands, followed by peak employment in later years

Sustained activity in New Brunswick’s residential and industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors created further growth in the province’s construction industry in 2022. With further gains expected in 2023, already-strained labour markets are unlikely to ease much in the near term.

 New labour market forecast data by BuildForce Canada suggests that further increases are expected across New Brunswick’s residential and non-residential construction sectors in 2023. These are spurred by increased demand for residential renovation activity and peak investment levels in the industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) sector.

 Residential demands are expected to contract through the remainder of the near term before rebounding into the later years of the forecast period in response to growing demands for renovation and maintenance work. Demands in the non-residential sector, meanwhile, will moderate briefly before rising to a peak in 2029, in line with work on the Mactaquac Dam.

 BuildForce Canada’s 2023_2032 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for New Brunswick, released today, anticipates construction employment to rise to a short-term peak in 2023, before moderating to 2026 and cycling back up to a peak in 2027 that is largely sustained through the remainder of the forecast period. Employment adds 660 workers, or 3% over 2022 levels.

 “New Brunswick’s labour force faces a dual challenge across the forecast period,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “Labour markets were strained entering this forecast period and will remain at or near capacity for many residential and non-residential trades and occupations in the short term. In the longer run, its challenge will be addressing market requirements with a diminished pool of workers that is created by an aging provincial demographic.”

 Rising demands will require the province’s construction labour force to increase by as many as 2,000 workers across the decade. The retirement of an expected 6,500 workers, or 27% of its 2022 labour force, over the same block of time will increase overall hiring requirements to 8,500 workers. This challenge could be further complicated by the shrinking pool of available new entrants as population growth slows and fewer youth are available to enter the labour force. These numbers are based on existing known demands and do not take into account the federal government’s goal to double the number of new homes built across Canada over the next 10 years, nor the anticipated increase in demand for construction services related to the retrofit of existing residential, industrial, commercial, and institutional buildings to accommodate the electrification of the economy.

 The industry’s hiring requirement could be partly addressed through the recruitment of a potential 4,700 workers under the age of 30 from the local population, but based on current analysis, a gap of some 3,800 workers may emerge.

 The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program. New Brunswick has seen significant fluctuations in registration levels in its 16 largest trade programs over recent years. New registrations declined by approximately 7% from 2010 to 2019, while trade employment declined at a slightly faster pace of 12% over the same period.

 Based on the current pace of new apprenticeship registrations and completion trends, several trades may be at risk of undersupplying the number of journeypersons required by 2032: Bricklayer, Boilermaker, Carpenter, Sprinkler System Installer, and Welder.

 “The construction industry remains focused on building a more diverse and inclusive labour force and to that end, the industry has been focused on enhancing the recruitment of younger workers into the trades, particularly those from groups traditionally under-represented in the province’s construction labour force, such as women, Indigenous People, and newcomers to Canada,” says John Ryan Morrison, Executive Director of the Construction Association of New Brunswick.

 In 2022, there were approximately 2,810 women employed in New Brunswick’s construction industry. That figure was unchanged from 2021. Of them, 30% worked on site, directly on construction projects, while the remainder worked off site, primarily in administrative and management-related occupations. Of the 21,500 tradespeople employed in the provincial industry, women made up only 3%. That figure is unchanged from 2021.

 The Indigenous population is another under-represented group that presents recruitment opportunities for New Brunswick’s construction industry. In 2021, Indigenous workers accounted for approximately 3.7% of the province’s construction labour force, a slight increase from levels observed in 2016. As the Indigenous population is the fastest growing in Canada and Indigenous workers seem predisposed to the pursuit of careers within the sector, there may be scope to further increase the recruitment of Indigenous People into the province’s construction industry.

 The construction industry is also committed to the recruitment of newcomers to Canada. Based on historical settlement trends, the province is expected to welcome an average of 8,520 newcomers every year through 2032. This fact could make the immigrant population a key source of labour force growth. As of 2021, the construction labour force share of immigrants was 3%. That is less than half of the immigrant share in the overall labour force, and significantly lower than the share in Canada’s construction industry.

 “With retirements increasing in the provincial construction labour force, increasing the participation rate of women, Indigenous People, and newcomers to Canada is imperative to ensuring New Brunswick’s construction industry is able to meet its future labour force needs,” says Tom McGinn, Executive Director of the New Brunswick Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association.

You might also like