New Brunswick construction workforce to achieve relative stability over next decade, although retirements loom large


Ottawa – The New Brunswick construction and maintenance industry is looking forward to 10 years of relative stability with only minor variations in employment totals between 2020 and 2029. But even as the industry achieves stability, it will need to compensate for the expected retirements of more than 6,900 workers over the next decade.

BuildForce Canada’s 2020–2029 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward provincial forecast report anticipates a stable workforce, even as the requirements of the construction market fluctuate between the residential and non-residential sectors.

In the non-residential sector, the completion of major road, highway, and bridge infrastructure projects contributes to declines in employment between 2021 and 2022. After 2021, non-residential employment is supported largely by ongoing investments in health and civil infrastructure alongside stable but seasonal heavy industrial maintenance requirements, which account for a sizable portion of overall non-residential employment in the province.

Total non-residential employment is expected to decline modestly between 2020 and 2026, as work on major road and other infrastructure projects, including upgrades to the Saint John port and Fredericton airport, is completed. Refurbishment work on the Mactaquac Dam is expected to bolster engineering construction after 2026, while rising exports and growth in the manufacturing sector are expected to drive the construction of industrial projects between 2020 and 2029. Numerous hospital projects in Bathurst, Moncton, and Fredericton will help sustain institutional construction during the same period.

Overall non-residential construction employment in 2029 should settle at levels slightly higher than those in 2019.

Employment in the residential sector, which accounts for just over 40% of construction workers in New Brunswick, is projected to be sustained near 2019 levels across the scenario period. Slowing population growth should limit demand for new home construction, though moderate growth in renovation and maintenance work should help keep employment levels stable.

“These offsetting trends translate into only moderate changes in total construction employment across the entire 2020–2029 scenario period,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “However, the industry will still need to replace an expected 6,900 retiring workers. Based on historical trends, New Brunswick’s construction industry is expected to draw in only an estimated 4,200 first-time new entrants aged 30 and younger from the local population. That gap will need to be addressed.”

As the province’s age demographics skew older, construction industry recruitment and training efforts will need to be maintained. The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program. More than 5,520 apprentices registered in the 17 largest construction trade programs in New Brunswick between 2013 and 2019, with 3,120 completions reported during this period. Based on current apprenticeship registration and competition trends, several trades may be at risk of not keeping pace with retirement levels. That could lead to a potential undersupply of certified journeypersons in some trades by 2029. Boilermakers, bricklayers, carpenters, metal fabricators, sheet metal workers and welders may be at higher risk. An ongoing commitment to training and apprenticeship development will remain necessary to avoid potential future skills shortages in the industry.

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 people, and new Canadians.

In 2019 approximately 2,000 women were employed in New Brunswick’s construction industry, of which 30% worked directly on construction projects. Of the 19,300 tradespeople employed in the industry, women made up only 3.1%. Similarly, Indigenous people were also underrepresented in the industry, accounting for approximately 2.7% of the province’s construction labour force, of which about 79% work directly on construction projects. Increasing the participation rate of both these groups would go a long way to help the industry address its future labour force needs.

Approximately 2% of New Brunswick’s construction labour force is made up of new Canadians. Over the coming decade, the province is expected to welcome an average of 5,600 newcomers every year, making the immigrant population an important future source of potential workers for the province’s construction and maintenance industry.

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:

John Landry
Executive Director
Construction Association of New Brunswick
(506) 478-0042

David Simon
Construction and Turnaround Manager
Irving Oil
(506) 650-1915

Nadine Fullarton
President
Moncton Northeast Construction Association and
Mechanical Contractors Association of New Brunswick
(506) 857-4038

Tom McGinn
Executive Director
New Brunswick Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association
(506) 454-5079

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