Home » Prince Edward Island construction industry bracing for busy start to the coming decade

Prince Edward Island construction industry bracing for busy start to the coming decade

January 31, 2019

Ottawa – Prince Edward Island is bracing for its busiest construction season ever in 2019, and while labour pressure will ease later in the coming decade, the industry will have to remain nimble to ensure that labour supply meets demand, according to the labour market forecast released today by BuildForce Canada.

The province is experiencing a construction boom contained in a small market, driven by continued growth in housing starts and peak levels of investment in engineering projects and industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) buildings.

BuildForce Canada’s 2019–2028 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward provincial report forecasts steady immigration-driven population growth will sustain demand for new housing and public-service facilities across the coming decade, adding 600 jobs by 2022 – a 13% increase over four years. Over the latter half of the decade, moderating housing demand and lower levels of engineering and ICI investment should produce a modest decline in provincial industry employment.  

“Meeting labour market demands depends on the ability of industry and training institutions to scale up recruitment and training capacity over a short period,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “The strong expansion in labour force requirements has been met in part by attracting workers from outside the local residential construction market, including workers from other sectors, industries, and in some cases, from outside the province. In the short term, the industry will need to rely on greater worker mobility and continue to engage large numbers of young people to enter the construction labour force.”

Total residential construction demands could add close to 400 jobs by 2022 and remain at elevated levels throughout the decade. Housing starts in Prince Edward Island surpassed 1,000 units in 2018, propelled by strong economic growth and the in-flow of nearly 8,000 immigrants to the province. Sustained levels of immigration are expected to contribute to elevated housing starts of up to 1,300 units by 2021, before returning to current levels by 2028.

Total non-residential employment is projected to rise by 13%, adding 300 jobs by 2028 compared to the 2018 starting point. Construction of ICI buildings is expected to sustain moderate employment growth over the scenario period.

PEI’s construction industry is anticipated to lose 1,500 workers to retirement between 2019 and 2028 – 27% of its current labour force. Based on historical trends, the province’s industry is expected to draw in an estimated 1,200 first-time new entrants aged 30 and younger from the local population.

Building a sustainable labour force will require the construction and maintenance industry to increase recruitment from groups traditionally underrepresented in the current industry labour force, including women, Indigenous Canadians, and new Canadians. Women represent 49% of the province’s labour force, but only about 4.0% of the PEI construction labour force working in direct trades and occupations tracked by BuildForce. In 2016, an estimated 9.6% of Indigenous Canadians were employed in the country’s construction industry, but represented less than 1% of PEI’s construction labour force working directly on construction projects. Prince Edward Island has opened the doors to new Canadians, and this in-flow has played a key role in labour markets. The immigrant population will continue to be a key source of potential labour force growth, as the province is estimated to welcome 27,000 new immigrants between 2019 and 2028.

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 900 apprentices registered in PEI’s 14 largest construction programs, with 450 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. 

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:

  • Allan Manley, Executive Officer, Canadian Home Builders Association – Prince Edward Island, 902-218-6423, allan@chba-pei.ca
  • Sam Sanderson, General Manager, Construction Association of Prince Edward Island, 902-628-5421, sam@capei.ca

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