Overall, Atlantic Canada will see strong employment opportunities for construction workers in the coming years

Each year, the Construction Sector Council (CSC) releases nine-year scenario-based labour forecasts following consultations with industry leaders, including owners, contractors and labour groups, as well as governments and educational institutions. This year’s Construction Looking Forward, 2012 to 2020 included key highlights (available in separate documents) of the Maritime Provinces and what they can expect in the coming years with regards to labour supply and demand.


The construction workforce in Newfoundland and Labrador will swell over the next several years as major resource projects get underway. Major projects in electric utilities, mining and offshore oil will be the key drivers of non-residential construction employment. Between 2012 and 2015, an estimated 2,200 new jobs will be created.

While the major industrial and engineering projects dominate the market, the forecast includes a moderate and steady growth in the commercial and institutional sectors across the scenario period. “Where these sectors hire the same key trades as the major industry projects, employers will face recruiting challenges and potential shortages over the near term”, says Rhonda Neary, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Association. “Our challenge will be to find enough skilled workers given the increase in construction activity and the large number of upcoming retirements.”

According to the report, an estimated 4,200 workers or 28 per cent of the current workforce is expected to retire over the next decade. “There will be plenty of job opportunities in the province,” says David Wade, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Building and Construction Trades Council. “While employment demands for the current list of major projects is expected to peak in 2015, there are several large projects that are still under review, but not yet included in our analysis because of uncertainty around proposed schedules. The addition of these potential projects would alter the long-term market conditions and increase labour demand requirements as they come on stream later in the scenario.”

Following a decade of strong growth, residential construction spending and employment growth slows across the scenario period. The forecast shows some job losses in the later part of the scenario. “The residential construction industry is a combination of new home starts and renovation of existing homes. So the losses that may be experienced in the new home starts in this forecast scenario will be offset by renovation and maintenance work. Overall, residential construction in Newfoundland and Labrador will continue to be a strong contributor to the local economy,” says Victoria Belbin, Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association – Newfoundland and Labrador.

Nova Scotia

The recent federal shipbuilding contract and other large non-residential projects are creating new opportunities for Nova Scotia’s construction industry. Industry leaders are taking steps now to deal with new opportunities in some industrial and engineering-related trades, and moderate growth in non-residential construction increases employment over the near term driven by engineering, industrial, commercial and institutional activity. Work is underway or proposed on several major projects that will raise employment between 2012 and 2014. As these projects wind down, however, employment returns to current levels. The CSC’s report says the province’s construction labour force will decline by about 400 workers as overall activity slows across the outlook scenario from 2012 to 2020. But industry continues to face the pressures of an aging workforce. The CSC estimates that industry will need to replace more than 6,000 workers that are expected to retire over the next decade.

Industry must also prepare for the potential impact of the $25 billion federal shipbuilding contract awarded to the Halifax shipyards, and this may alter the labour market outlook for construction trades. While few details are yet available, several of the key trades in high demand for the shipbuilding contract are construction-related trades.

“The new projects combined with competition from outside the industry and province, as well as ongoing retirements is driving stakeholders to invest more in recruitment and training,” says Duncan Williams, president of the Construction Association of Nova Scotia. “We’re focusing our efforts on a variety of labour sources, including youth, women, other industries and immigrants.”

While there are employment opportunities in some markets, the job prospects in road, bridge and new residential construction are expected to be weak across the outlook scenario. “Managing worker mobility will be key to meeting labour requirements,” says Allan Stapleton, president of the Nova Scotia Construction Labour Relations Association “Over the next few years, there will be opportunities for mobility between sectors of construction, and between provinces, as workers shift to where their skills are needed.”

The forecast report highlights the potential for workers on new residential projects shifting to renovations, residential workers seeking jobs on non-residential projects, and construction workers moving into and back from shipbuilding.

Prince Edward Island

P.E.I. will see continued investment in utilities and commercial, industrial and institutional building projects over the next decade or so, and construction employment will grow beyond record levels.

The forecast says that in the short term, job gains in the non-residential sector will help to offset weaker conditions in new housing construction, and in road, highway and bridge construction. It notes, however, that both residential and new highway work will return later in the outlook scenario.

“Employers, human resource planners and trainers are keeping a close eye on these and other shifting labour requirements,” says Grant MacLeod, co-owner of Sherwood BMR. The construction labour force is estimated to rise by almost 400 workers from 2012 to 2020 in response to increased construction activity. In addition, new entrants will be required to replace the estimated 1,100 workers that are expected to retire. Industry will need to recruit 1,500 workers over the next decade to meet industry demand requirements.

“Recruiting new workers will be difficult in some years, especially with looming retirements, as well as competition from projects in other provinces and the potential impact of the federal shipbuilding contract in Halifax, Nova Scotia,” says Ross Barnes, general manager of the Construction Association of PEI. “Steady investment in apprenticeship, career promotion and recruiting that target youth, immigrants, women and other industries, is key to meeting our needs and sustaining our workforce.”

New Brunswick

Even though the province has come off a historic high level of construction activity, with careful planning, the New Brunswick construction industry should be able to draw on its own workforce to meet labour requirements for most of the next decade as residential activity trends downward, government stimulus programs end, and several major non-residential projects are near completion.

The CSC forecast stresses that even as overall construction activity slows, industry will still need to plan carefully to sustain all the systems necessary to support the construction workforce, including retention, career promotion and training.

“With stronger construction markets in other parts of the country, the challenge lies in keeping the skilled workers here when they are needed to replace retiring workers,” says Tim Flood, president of John Flood and Sons (1961) Ltd. Mining and other resource-related projects will be the main source of new jobs, but there will also be moderate increases in employment in the industrial, commercial and institutional sectors.

Those job openings compensate for the losses in engineering-related work caused by the completion of major projects and the end of government stimulus projects.

When it comes to housing, overall losses in employment reach almost 20 per cent over the entire forecast period. The downward trend occurs mostly in new housing, while renovation and maintenance follow a gradual and steady increase in employment.

The industry’s labour force is estimated to decline by almost 2,700 workers from 2012 to 2020 as construction investment weakens. This decline will be offset by the expected retirement of 4,200 workers. Industry will still need to recruit more than 1,500 workers to replace retirees and sustain a skilled workforce.

“That means keeping apprenticeship, career promotion and skill upgrading on the front burner at all times”, says Gary Ritchie, president of the New Brunswick Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council.

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