Major Projects Keep Ontario’s Construction Workforce Going Strong

January 31, 2017

Rising Retirements Create New Opportunities and Challenges

Major infrastructure, transportation and utility projects are creating a decade’s worth of work for Ontario’s construction workforce. These projects will sustain employment over the next ten years, while the impending wave of baby boom retirements becomes the bigger challenge for industry, according to the latest labour market forecast released today by BuildForce Canada.

“Ontario is losing as many as 86,000 workers this decade to retirement,” said Rosemary Sparks, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “It’s a huge loss of skill and experience that requires a concerted effort to attract more youth, women and Indigenous people to construction as well as workers from outside the province.”

Between now and 2020, labour demands in the province will intensify for current and planned infrastructure and major engineering projects.

“Labour mobility across regions will be key in meeting rising demands for specialized trades,” added Sparks.

BuildForce Canada’s 2017-2026 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward forecast shows that while the pace of construction is projected to slow in Ontario, major projects will sustain construction employment at near record levels over the next decade. From an international bridge in Windsor to nuclear refurbishment and transit expansion in the Greater Toronto Area and Ottawa, infrastructure projects will surpass residential building as the primary source of construction job growth in many regions of Ontario. Construction employment is expected to peak in 2020, marking the plateau of a 25-year expansion that has doubled the size Ontario’s construction workforce.

Forecast highlights including the following:

  • Residential building drives employment higher in 2017 before stabilizing, while home renovation work grows steadily;
  • Institutional and commercial building remains steady while modest growth in manufacturing spurs industrial building between 2019 and 2020;
  • Over 20 percent of Ontario’s construction workforce is expected to retire this decade.

BuildForce Canada’s forecast by region:

Greater Toronto Area (GTA)

  • Most of the province’s construction job growth will be in the GTA, where labour demands for major utility, transportation and other infrastructure projects are expected to be highest in 2022.
  • Residential building, driven by condo construction and renovation work is expected to remain at historically high levels over the forecast period.

Southwest Ontario

  • Construction activity is expected to rise this year and next, driven by major projects and gains in commercial and institutional building. As many as 3,500 jobs are added to 2020, a 30 percent rise in engineering employment driven by major projects including the start of a proposed nuclear refurbishment project.  
  • Housing starts rise modestly to 2021, then cycle down.

Central Ontario

  • Construction employment is sustained near current levels by a rise in industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) building and stable engineering investment.
  • Tradespeople involved in new housing construction are in demand as residential building reaches peak activity this year, before softening in 2018 and 2019. 

Eastern Ontario

  • Non-residential job growth increases over the short-term driven by spin-off activity related to Light Rail Transit and other infrastructure projects, adding as many as 2,300 jobs to 2021.
  • After reaching peak activity this year, new housing remains relatively stable until 2021, then declines, while renovation works stays near current levels.

Northern Ontario

  • Following several years of decline, housing starts are projected to rise across the forecast period.
  • There’s a modest recovery in commercial and institutional building, and a slight rise in engineering employment to 2021 before receding, as current and proposed projects wind down.
  • Low commodity prices have delayed new resource development projects.

BuildForce Canada is a national industry-led organization that represents all sectors of Canada’s construction industry. Its mandate is to provide accurate and timely labour market data and analysis, as well as programs and initiatives to help manage workforce requirements and build the capacity and the capability of Canada’s construction and maintenance workforce. Visit:

For further information, contact: Rosemary Sparks, Executive Director, BuildForce Canada, or (905)-852-9186

Funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program