Employment growth slows in May, but younger workers more in demand | BuildForce Canada

Employment growth slows in May, but younger workers more in demand

Labour Market Corner Blog

Employment growth slows in May, but younger workers more in demand

Key construction employment metrics trended lower in May 2024 compared with the same period in 2023. 

New Labour Force Survey (LFS) data released by Statistics Canada shows that both employment and labour force numbers are lower in May 2024 than in May 2023. Employment reported a contraction of 41,700 workers, or -2.6%, over the past 12 months, while the number of people in the construction labour force declined by 27,900, or -1.6%, over the same period. Consequently, the industry’s unemployment rate rose from 4.7% in May 2023 to 5.6% last month. 

In May, the national construction labour force stood at 1,676,300 workers, while employment was 1,582,100 workers. 

Labour force characteristics by industry, monthly, unadjusted for seasonality graph from Statistics Canada

Provincial data vary 

It is worth noting that although key employment data are lower this year compared to May 2023, these figures remain consistent with historical levels. Below are some of the key variations reported across the provinces. 

Employment contractions were greatest in Ontario (-33,700, -5.5%), Alberta (-13,500, -5.4%), and Manitoba (-3,100, -5.4%), while Prince Edward Island (+1,100, +15.1%), Nova Scotia (2,000, +5.2%), and New Brunswick (1,300, +4.0%) reported the greatest year-over-year gains. 

Labour force changes over the past 12 months varied from an increase of 15.2% (or 1,200 workers) in Prince Edward Island to a contraction of 5.0% in Ontario. At -32,300 workers, the decline in Ontario’s labour force was by far the largest in the country, and more than offset gains recorded in six other provinces. 

Construction unemployment rates across the provinces varied from a high of 15.1% in Newfoundland and Labrador to a low of 3.7% in Quebec. Every other province reported rates of at least 5.0%, with Alberta (7.9%), Saskatchewan (8.1%), New Brunswick (8.2%), and Newfoundland and Labrador reporting rates of approximately 8% or more. 

Overall employment down among men and women, but up among youngest workers 

Both men and women saw construction employment levels decline by 2.6% nationally in May. Most notable among these trends is a significant and sustained increase among female employment in Quebec. Employment among women increased by 40% year over year, and by nearly 11% for the month. May marked the fifth month in a row in which employment among women has increased by 10% or more in the province. Employment growth among women was also strong in British Columbia in May, with the province adding more than 15% to female employment compared to the previous month. 

Also noteworthy was the increase in employment among young workers (i.e., those aged 15 to 24 years) in May. Over the past 12 months, employment in this cohort increased by 8.7% nationally, with Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador reporting increases of 75% or more, and Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia both reporting increases of at least 25%. Compared with April 2024, employment in this cohort increased by 11.8% nationally. 

Employment among young women (aged 15 to 24 years) increased by 30.5% nationally, with several provinces (i.e., Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia) reporting increases of 75% or more over the past 12 months. The rapid increase in employment among young women has translated into the highest participation of women in the construction industry since the first release of the Labour Force Survey in 1976. 

Finally, employment among young men grew by 6.7% nationally and more than 100% in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador over the last 12 months. On a month-over-month basis, employment in this cohort increased by 9.8% nationally, with the greatest increase reported in Saskatchewan (64.1%). 

Photo of Klayton Gonçalves
Klayton Gonçalves is Senior Economist and Head of Business Intelligence for BuildForce Canada.