Growing Canadian Construction Sector Faces Labor Crunch

Canada is experiencing rapid growth, which has increased the demand for housing. However, this growth has put pressure on the construction industry, leading to a shortage of workers. Across the country, there are tens of thousands of unfilled construction jobs, with Ontario alone having up to 20,000 open positions. The Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) believes it could fill these positions if it could find the necessary workers.

The shortage of workers extends to various sectors within construction, including residential and high-rise construction, where laborers, bricklayers, cement finishers, and workers involved in trim and tile work are needed. As per insights, this shortage is just a partial snapshot of the larger construction labor crunch.

Moreover, the industry is facing a significant wave of retirements, with approximately 20% of Canada’s construction workers expected to retire within the next 10 years. However, this challenge is not unique to construction but is part of the broader labor supply challenges related to Canada’s aging workforce. To ensure the progress of construction projects, both the industry and government are closely monitoring the availability of workers now and in the future.

The construction labor shortage varies across different regions of Canada, with demographics being a core factor. The Prairie provinces, where the population skews younger, are projected to have a more balanced number of new recruits and retirements in the construction sector. However, British Columbia and Ontario face more significant challenges. In British Columbia, 38,000 veteran builders are expected to retire by 2032, while Ontario will see over 80,000 workers exit the industry during the same period. This poses a significant problem for Ontario, which aims to build 1.5 million new homes by 2031.

Efforts to address the construction labor shortage are underway. Ontario’s provincial government is intensifying the recruitment of skilled trade workers and encouraging more young people to enter the field. The province has seen a record number of apprenticeship sign-ups, representing a significant increase compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are also experiencing labor constraints in their construction industries, impacting housing supply and delaying projects.

The shortage of construction labor has cost implications and may cause project delays. Mandy Rennehan, a construction mogul, highlights that the scarcity of skilled labor in rural areas has driven up prices for related services, affecting homeowners, developers, and smaller contractors. To address the labor shortage, the industry can encourage young people to pursue trade careers and promote diversity by increasing the representation of underrepresented groups. Recruiting skilled workers from abroad, as prioritized by the Canadian government, is another potential solution.