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New Brunswick: A relatively stable construction economy for New Brunswick over the next decade

January 31, 2019

Ottawa – A relatively stable construction market with only moderate changes to total employment levels is expected for New Brunswick through 2028, but the industry will still need to replace more than 7,400 workers expected to retire over the coming decade, according to the labour market forecast released today by BuildForce Canada.

BuildForce Canada’s 2019–2028 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward provincial forecast report foresees a modest decline in new housing and engineering construction, buttressed by rising levels of residential renovation work, industrial expansion, and infrastructure investment. Employment demands over the longer term are potentially supported by rising maintenance and renewed engineering construction requirements.

“Moderate declines in new homebuilding and a reduction in road, highway, and bridge infrastructure investment could contribute to a slight decline of 5% in overall employment between 2019 and 2021,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “These declines are projected to be partly offset by work on a number of hospital projects and rising investment in the manufacturing sector that contribute to modest gains in total industrial, commercial, and institutional building construction.”

Starting in 2022, the anticipated timing of work on the Mactaquac hydro dam along with other infrastructure projects should bolster non-residential employment requirements. The dam project is expected to increase demand for electricians, millwrights, concrete finishers, crane operators, pipefitters, carpenters, and labourers.

Rising exports and growth in the manufacturing sector should increase construction of industrial buildings between 2019 and 2024. Over the same period, hospital projects in Bathurst, Saint John, and Fredericton should sustain activity in institutional construction.

Across the 2019–2028 scenario period, weakening demand for new housing may reflect a general slowing in the province’s population growth, but employment in the residential sector should be sustained near 2019 levels, as moderate growth in renovation investment helps to offset declines in the construction of new housing.

While overall employment is mostly unchanged, sustaining labour force capacity at current levels will require ongoing recruitment and training of new workers to contend with the projected retirement of 7,400 workers, or 30% of the current labour force. Based on historical trends, New Brunswick’s construction industry is expected to draw in an estimated 4,500 first-time new entrants aged 30 and younger from the local population. Consequently, the construction industry will need to work harder to replace retiring workers as the province’s age demographic skews older, population growth slows, and other industries compete for youth entering the labour force.

The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program. Over the past five years, more than 4,700 apprentices registered in New Brunswick’s 15 largest construction programs, with 2,700 completions registered during that period. An ongoing commitment to training and apprenticeship development will be necessary to ensure there are sufficient numbers of qualified tradespeople to sustain a skilled labour force over the long term.

Building a sustainable labour force will also require the construction and maintenance industry to increase recruitment from groups traditionally underrepresented in the current construction labour force, including women, Indigenous Canadians, and new Canadians.

In 2018, women employed in New Brunswick represented 49% of the province’s total labour force. In the province’s construction and maintenance industry, however, women represented just 2.1% of the labour force employed in direct on-site project construction. Similarly, Indigenous Canadians were also underrepresented in the industry, accounting for little more than 2.7% of the province’s construction labour force. Increasing the participation rate of both these groups would go a long way to helping the 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 provide accurate and timely labour market data and analysis, as well as programs and initiatives to help manage labour force requirements and build the capacity and the capability of Canada’s construction and maintenance industry. Visit www.constructionforecasts.ca.

For further information, contact Bill Ferreira, Executive Director, BuildForce Canada, at Ferreira@buildforce.ca or 613-569-5552 ext. 222.

This report was produced with the support and input of a variety of provincial construction and maintenance industry stakeholders.

Funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.