Canada’s Construction Industry Relying on Mobile Workforce

February 18, 2014

Ottawa – Canada’s construction industry will need to attract more young people and workers willing to move from other provinces, regions and countries, to meet its changing labour force needs, according to a new labour market forecast released today by BuildForce Canada.

“As major projects gear up and wind down, building a new and mobile workforce is an industry priority,” said Rosemary Sparks, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “This will help fill the skills gap, as up to one-quarter of the construction workforce retires over the next decade.”

The 20142023 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward forecast released by BuildForce Canada, shows strong labour demands continue in the West as some markets slow in the East. As a result, more workers from other provinces and countries are needed, especially during peak periods. 

Mobility is key to meeting industry needs over the next five years, with specialized skills and experience in short supply in some regions. As many as 300,000 new workers will be needed to replace retirees and meet project demands over the next 10 years. These demands differ across each province and trade.

BuildForce Canada’s annual forecast also highlights three distinct labour cycles across the following regions and sectors:

  • Resource projects in, Newfoundland and Labrador and Northern Ontario drive a surge in labour needs to 2014 or 2015. Oil sands developments, sustaining capital and maintenance work in Alberta, rise to new peak demands by 2019. Major new resource and infrastructure projects in Northern B.C. drive construction employment to an all-time high in 2017.
  • New mining and infrastructure projects, including transit expansion, and refurbishment of nuclear power facilities in Ontario, will drive job growth over the next decade.
  • While expansion slows in Saskatchewan, labour demands stay well above historical levels.

There will be recovery and expansion in Manitoba and sustained levels of employment in Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Non-residential construction leads job growth, with a series major resource and utility/infrastructure projects providing cyclical workforce demands in many provinces and more moderate but steady growth in commercial and industrial sectors.

Residential construction slows as several provincial housing markets experience a brief downturn in 2013 before moderate recovery to 2015 and 2016. Residential employment remains below the 2007 peak until 2023 in some provinces. Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia are moderately stronger, with a small gain in residential job growth from 2014 to 2023. A shift in the residential market is driven by slower population growth and new housing starts declining to come back in line with household formations.  Renovation construction continues to grow, partially offsetting the decline in new construction.

“Meeting the demand for skilled labour takes long-range planning and investment,” added Sparks. “The focus in every region should be on a collective effort to draw youth, women, Aboriginal people and newcomers to construction careers and build the ranks of future specialists, foremen and supervisors.”

BuildForce Canada is a national industry-led organization committed to providing accurate and timely labour market data and analysis to assist in meeting workforce requirements and advancing the needs of Canada’s construction industry. BuildForce consults with industry stakeholders, including owners, contractors, labour groups and government to compile and validate its labour market information. Visit:

For further information contact:
Rosemary Sparks, Executive Director, BuildForce Canada

Funded by the Government of Canada