Construction employment growth in Alberta to 2033 is driven by strong non-residential demands

March 27, 2024

March 27, 2024 – Ottawa, Ontario

The components of Alberta’s construction sector saw mixed fortunes in 2023. Activity in the province’s non-residential sector grew modestly with an increase in the construction of industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) buildings and in the oil and gas sector. Meanwhile, residential construction demand, which had been performing at elevated levels in recent years, contracted under the pressure of rising interest rates.

BuildForce Canada released its 2024–2033 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for the province today. The outlook calls for a slight contraction in construction and maintenance employment in 2023, with losses in the residential sector offsetting a slight gain in non-residential employment. The sectors diverge across the forecast period. Non-residential employment is poised to chart a steady trend up to the end of the decade, rising 14% above 2023 levels by 2033. These gains are driven principally by a strong performance in the ICI buildings sector, and new gains in engineering construction after 2027.

Residential employment is poised to cycle up in the short term as interest rate pressures ease and demand for new housing returns to growth. The gains are not sustained, however, with employment projected to contract after 2027 with reductions in new-housing investment.

Total construction employment is expected to increase by 14,000 workers across the forecast period. A gain of 14% in non-residential employment more than offsets a contraction of 1% in the residential sector.

These numbers are based on existing known demands and do not take into account public-sector initiatives to address housing affordability challenges, 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. Both scenarios are addressed in separate reports to be released by BuildForce Canada at a later date.

“Like many provinces, Alberta is facing a shift in its population age structure,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “Many trades across the residential and non-residential sectors are facing recruiting challenges. Although a slowdown in the residential sector will help to ease some of those pressures, a long list of major projects in the non-residential sector, combined with seasonal industrial shutdown and maintenance activity, will keep that pressure elevated.”

The BuildForce Canada forecast anticipates that Alberta’s construction industry will need to replace an estimated 42,500 workers, or 23% of its 2023 labour force, who are expected to retire by 2033. The province’s demographics should help to close much of that gap, with an estimated 41,100 new workers under the age of 30 projected to enter the labour force from the local population. However, when hiring needs relating to expansion are factored into the scenario, the province may be left with a recruiting gap of approximately 22,000 additional workers to be filled by 2033.

The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program. New registrations in Alberta’s 25 largest construction trade programs experienced significant declines between 2014 and 2019, contracting by 57%. That rate was far greater than the 18% contraction in employment over the same period. Completions were also trending down across the same period, albeit at a slower pace. Combined, these trends are likely to reduce the near-term numbers of new certified workers.

The construction industry remains focused on building a more diverse and inclusive labour force. To that end, efforts are ongoing to enhance the recruitment of individuals from groups traditionally under-represented in the province’s construction labour force, such as women, Indigenous People, and newcomers to Canada.

In 2023, there were approximately 36,600 women employed in Alberta’s construction industry. That figure represented a contraction of 900 workers over 2022 totals. Of them, 36% worked directly in on-site construction. As a share of the total, women made up just 7% of the 177,600 tradespeople employed in Alberta’s construction industry in 2023.

The Indigenous population is another under-represented group that presents recruitment opportunities for Alberta’s construction industry. The province has historically been successful in increasing the share of Indigenous People in its construction workforce. In 2021, Indigenous workers accounted for 6.7% of the province’s construction labour force, which is a slight increase over totals reported in 2016 and is notably higher than the share of Indigenous People represented in the overall labour force. 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 may also leverage newcomers over the coming decade to meet anticipated labour market requirements. Based on current trends, Alberta is expected to see elevated levels of immigration over the forecast period. This will make newcomers a key contributor to the industry’s labour force. Currently, newcomers and more established immigrants make up about 18% of the province’s construction workforce.

Increasing the participation rate of women, Indigenous People, and new Canadians could help Alberta’s construction industry address its future labour force needs.

BuildForce Canada is a national industry-led organization that represents all sectors of Canada’s construction industry. Its mandate is to support the labour market development needs of the construction and maintenance industry. As part of these activities, BuildForce works with key industry stakeholders, including contractors, proponents of construction, labour providers, governments, and training providers to identify both demand and supply trends that will impact labour force capacity in the sector, and supports the career searches of job seekers wanting to work in the industry. BuildForce also leads programs and initiatives that support workforce upskilling, workforce productivity improvements, improvements to training modalities, human resource tools to support the adoption of industry best practices, as well as other value-added initiatives focused on supporting the industry’s labour force development needs. Visit

For further information, contact Bill Ferreira, Executive Director, BuildForce Canada, at or 613-569-5552 ext. 2220.

This report was produced with the support and input of a variety of provincial construction and maintenance industry stakeholders, and was funded in part by the Government of Canada's Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program.

For local industry reaction to this latest BuildForce Canada report, please contact:

Terry Parker
Executive Director
Building Trades of Alberta

Paul de Jong
Progressive Contractors Association of Canada

Warren Singh
Executive Director
Alberta Construction Association

Dennis Perrin
Prairies Director