Nova Scotia construction labour market to remain stable through 2028


Ottawa — A stable overall construction market in Nova Scotia over the next decade is projected to result in flat levels of employment, but the construction and maintenance industry will still need to contend with the expected retirement of more than 8,100 workers over that period, according to the labour market forecast released today by BuildForce Canada.

BuildForce Canada’s 2019–2028 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward provincial report forecasts construction employment will soften between 2020 and 2023 as demands related to major projects and new homebuilding recede, but then rises again through 2028 as new demand drives employment gains. By 2028, industry employment should be back to 2018 levels.  

While employment is expected to soften in the short term, levels rise modestly over the latter half of the 2019–2028 scenario period, helped by the start of the second phase of shipbuilding in the Canadian Surface Combatant project. A modest increase of 600 construction jobs is anticipated between 2023 and 2028 due to increases in the construction of industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) buildings and overall non-residential maintenance work.

Renovation and maintenance work, which accounted for almost three quarters of residential employment in 2018, is expected to rise steadily from 2019 to 2028, while total residential employment is expected to decline by a modest 500 workers. The residential sector should see housing starts decline to 2028, in line with slowing population growth.

“Work related to the decommissioning of the Sable and Deep Panuke natural gas facilities, highway twinning, and other road and bridge projects should sustain non-residential employment to 2021,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “Strengthening economic conditions, bolstered by the second phase of the federal government’s shipbuilding program, support broader economic growth and have a positive impact on activity in the industrial and commercial sectors in 2023. Overall, employment is projected to be moderately higher by 2028, with a larger portion of the labour force engaged in maintenance and ICI building construction.”

Over the next 10 years, Nova Scotia’s construction industry will face the challenge of the retirement of more than 8,100 workers, or 28% of the current labour force. Based on historical trends, however, the province’s construction industry is expected to draw in only an estimated 5,000 first-time new entrants aged 30 and younger from the local population over the same period.

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 6,600 apprentices registered in Nova Scotia’s 15 largest construction programs, with 2,940 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 workforce 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 represented just 10% of the province’s construction and maintenance industry labour force and accounted for only 2.3% of workers employed in direct on-site project construction. In the province’s total labour force, however, women represented 57%.

Similarly, Indigenous Canadians also represented a small percentage of the construction labour force, accounting for little more than 5% of the total. Increasing the participation rate of both these groups would go a long way to helping the industry address its future labour force needs.

Over the coming decade, the province is expected to welcome an average of 3,960 newcomers every year, making the immigrant population an important future source of potential workers for the province’s construction and maintenance industry. Currently, Nova Scotia’s construction workforce is made up of approximately 3.5% new Canadians.

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. For local industry reaction to this latest BuildForce Canada report, please contact:

  • Trent Soholt, Executive Director, Nova Scotia Construction Sector Council, 902-832-4761, tsoholt@nscsc.ca
  • Duncan Williams, President and CEO, Construction Association of Nova Scotia, 902-468-2267, dwilliams@cans.ns.ca

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