Construction growth in PEI to remain strong to mid-decade


Ottawa – Construction and maintenance activity in Prince Edward Island is expected to increase in 2021 before slowing through the middle part of the coming decade. Construction employment, as a result, will increase through 2025 before falling back through 2030.

The latest labour market information released today by BuildForce Canada shows that construction demand in the province will accelerate in 2021, driven by a wave of public-sector investments alongside elevated levels of new-housing construction and increasing industrial, commercial, and institutional activity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

BuildForce Canada’s 2021–2030 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for the province anticipates that the pace of construction growth in PEI will slow in 2025 before retreating from its peak.

“Prince Edward Island was the only province to experience a rise in construction employment in 2020, propelled through the pandemic by the momentum of an enduring residential expansion,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “We expect housing starts and related employment to stay at record levels through 2022. The challenge for the industry will be how to navigate a forecasted transition from the red-hot residential sector to the growing institutional and public infrastructure markets as the province tries to catch up to the requirements of the immigration-driven population boom of recent years.”

Despite the positive impact immigration has had in lowering the average age in Prince Edward Island over the past few years, the province’s construction labour force continues to age. Approximately 1,500 workers are projected to retire over the next decade. As employment declines over the scenario period, the potential 1,200 new entrants under the age of 30 from the local population will offset expected retirements.

The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program. While new registrations in the province’s five largest construction trade programs have been on the rise since 2014, current data suggest COVID-19 has resulted in a steep decline in new registrations relative to employment. This has imposed significant obstacles to the delivery of in-school training, testing, and certification, and may reduce the near-term numbers of new certified workers.

Based on the pre-pandemic pace of new registrations and completion trends, the number of newly certified carpenters was identified as possibly being at risk of falling short of demand requirements. A potential undersupply of new journeypersons could exist by 2030, and these supply risks could be worsened by the impact of the pandemic.

Building a sustainable and diverse 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 2020, there were approximately 790 women employed in Prince Edward Island’s construction industry, of which 48% worked directly on construction projects. Of the 5,400 tradespeople employed in the industry, women made up only 7% of the total. Indigenous people accounted for about 1% of PEI’s total construction labour force, with about 75% working directly on construction projects. That rate is lower than the 5% they account for in Atlantic Canada’s overall labour force and suggests that there could be further scope to increase the participation of Indigenous people in the construction trades. Increasing the participation rate of women and Indigenous people would go a long way to help the industry address its future labour force needs.

As current demographics point to declines in the number of younger workers available to enter the labour force, immigration will therefore play an increasingly important role in the development of PEI’s future workforce. The province is estimated to welcome 23,640 new immigrants between 2021 and 2030. With just under 3% of the province’s current construction labour force made up of new Canadians, there is considerable scope to increase their recruitment into the province’s construction industry and thereby help overcome the challenge presented by the retirement of just over 24% of the industry’s current labour force over the coming decade.

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 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. 2220.

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:

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

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