After a busy two years, Prince Edward Island construction industry still projected to be an “island of growth”


Ottawa – Following a busy 2019, Prince Edward Island’s construction and maintenance industry continues to experience broad-based expansion. Construction employment is projected to continue to rise over the next two years, according to the labour market forecast released today by BuildForce Canada.

The expansion has been propelled by strong levels of immigration and higher levels of new homebuilding, construction of institutional buildings, and a rise in engineering construction related to major utility and transportation infrastructure projects. BuildForce Canada’s 2020–2029 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward provincial report forecasts that the pace of growth will moderate slightly across the 2020–2029 scenario period.

Construction investment is expected to ease after 2020 as major utility (wind), transportation, and other infrastructure projects are completed and overall economic expansion slows. However, the province will continue to demonstrate strong population growth over the scenario period, which will sustain demand for new housing and public service facilities. As a result, construction employment is forecast to plateau at high levels after 2021.

“Despite attracting a record number of skilled trades to the province, the rapid pace of expansion has run ahead of available labour supply, leading to falling unemployment and recruitment challenges,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “Meeting current and future labour demands on the island will require a continuation of the industry’s collaboration with government and educational institutions to scale up recruitment and training capacity. The industry will also need to rely on greater worker mobility and continue to engage large numbers of young people to enter the construction labour force, especially in the face of record retirements.”

In the residential sector, housing starts were driven primarily by international migration. They peaked at 1,400 units in 2019 and are expected to remain above 1,000 units to 2029. Total residential construction demands are projected to rise by a modest 6% from 2019 levels across the scenario period, with growth driven exclusively by modest increases in the renovation and maintenance market.

Non-residential construction requirements are expected to moderate between 2021 and 2025 as major industrial, institutional, and other infrastructure projects wind down. While commercial building construction is projected to lead growth over the decade, institutional construction will grow in importance as multiple health and education projects commence, including the Hillsborough mental health facility. A modest decline may follow in 2022 as some of the current inventory of commercial projects wind down, though institutional building construction is expected to remain at elevated levels across the scenario period.

PEI’s construction industry is anticipated to lose 1,500 workers to retirement over the decade, and based on historical trends, only draw in an estimated 1,200 first-time new entrants aged 30 and younger from the local population. Addressing this gap between retirements and new entrants will require ongoing industry attention throughout the decade.

The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program. More than 755 apprentices registered in the five largest construction trade programs in Prince Edward Island between 2013 and 2019, with 390 completions reported during that period. Based on current apprenticeship registration and completion 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. Carpenters and construction electricians 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 require the construction and maintenance industry to increase recruitment from groups traditionally underrepresented in the current industry labour force, including women, Indigenous people, and new Canadians.

In 2019, approximately 700 women were employed in Prince Edward Island’s construction industry, of which 43% worked directly on construction projects. Of the 5,100 tradespeople employed in the industry, women made up 5.7%. Similarly, Indigenous people also represented a small percentage of the construction labour force, accounting for little more than 1% of the total.

Currently, new Canadians account for less than 3% of PEI’s construction workforce. Over the coming decade, the province is expected to welcome an average of 2,600 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:

Allan Manley
Executive Officer
Canadian Home Builders Association – Prince Edward Island
902-218-6423

Sam Sanderson
General Manager
Construction Association of Prince Edward Island
902-628-5421

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