Strong activity in the province’s engineering-construction sector will drive construction and maintenance employment demands in Newfoundland and Labrador to a peak of nearly 16,000 workers in 2029, before they contract by as many as 940 workers (-6%) below 2022 levels by 2032.
BuildForce Canada’s 2023–2032 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for Newfoundland and Labrador, released today, finds the province in the midst of a period of growth. Continued increases in new-housing, institutional, and engineering construction sectors drove employment higher in both the residential and non-residential sectors in 2022. Meanwhile, slower rates of growth in the province’s construction labour force contributed to unemployment levels as low as 10% during the summer months.
The remainder of the short-term outlook (i.e., through 2025) calls for moderate increases in the residential construction sector, driven by strong rates of migration to the province, and elevated levels of activity in the non-residential sector.
“The construction and maintenance industry in Newfoundland and Labrador is well positioned to withstand any forthcoming contractions created by rising interest rates and a slowing global economy in the short term,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “Its housing market should continue to grow given its relative affordability, and activity in the non-residential sector is poised to rise to a peak with work on the West White Rose offshore platform and later the Equinor Bay du Nord project. The longer-run outlook, however, remains constrained by older age demographics, a declining population, and the completion of major projects.”
An aging workforce could present a significant challenge for the province’s construction industry. An estimated 5,700 workers, or 29% of its 2022 labour force, is expected to retire between 2023 and 2032. Over the same period, the industry is expected to recruit just 3,400 new entrants aged 30 or younger from the local population.
Although there are a number of additional major proposed projects being tracked, they are not presently included in the BuildForce analysis. Furthermore, the BuildForce analysis does 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 does it account for any 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.
“Newfoundland and Labrador’s construction sector experienced a significant recovery in 2022, and as the global economy recovers and demand for electrification increases, the province’s construction sector is well positioned to make a substantial contribution to the economic success of the country,” says Terry French, President of the Construction Labour Relations Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, new registrations in the 11 largest construction trade programs were declining. Fewer new journeypersons were entering the workforce relative to the levels observed over the past decade as a result. Following this trend, completions were also trending down leading into 2020, albeit at a slower pace. With new registrations declining at a faster rate than trade employment, there is a risk for an insufficient number of newly certified journeypersons to sustain workforce requirements over the long term.
Based on projected new registrations, several trades may be at risk of undersupplying the number of new journeypersons required by 2032. Trades within this group include Construction Electrician, Ironworker, Mobile Crane Operator, Welder, and pipefitting trades.
“The construction industry remains focused on building a more diverse and inclusive labour force. To that end, efforts are ongoing to enhance the recruitment and training of youth, individuals from equity-deserving groups traditionally under-represented in the construction sector and from outside the country through permanent immigration,” says Darin King, Executive Director of the Building Trades of Newfoundland and Labrador.
In 2022, there were approximately 1,780 women employed in Newfoundland and Labrador’s construction industry, an increase of nearly 300 over 2021 levels. Of them, 60% worked on site, directly on construction projects, while the remaining 40% worked off site, primarily in administrative and management-related occupations. Of the 15,200 tradespeople employed in the industry, women made up only 7% of the total workforce.
The Indigenous population also represents potential recruitment opportunities for the construction industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2021, Indigenous workers accounted for approximately 9% of the province’s construction labour force. This figure was unchanged from 2016 and matches the share of Indigenous People represented in the overall labour force. As the Indigenous population is the fastest growing in Canada, and as Indigenous workers seem predisposed to the pursuit of careers within the sector, the industry may need to dedicate further efforts to increasing the recruitment of Indigenous People.
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 approximately 3,770 newcomers to Canada every year between 2023 and 2032, making the immigrant population a key source of labour force growth. As of 2021, newcomers to Canada and established immigrants made up about 2% of the province’s construction workforce.
Increasing the participation rate of women, Indigenous People, and newcomers to Canada would go a long way to help Newfoundland and Labrador’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 www.buildforce.ca.
For further information, contact Bill Ferreira, Executive Director, BuildForce Canada, at firstname.lastname@example.org 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. For local industry reaction to this latest BuildForce Canada report, please contact:
Construction Labour Relations Association – NL
Trades NL: Building Trades of Newfoundland & Labrador
Funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program.