Newfoundland and Labrador to see modest employment recovery to 2023 before contracting through 2027


The new labour market forecast prepared by BuildForce Canada suggests that Newfoundland and Labrador’s construction and maintenance industry will reach an employment peak in 2023 before contracting by about 16%, or nearly 2,300 workers, to the end of 2027.

The province’s construction labour market enjoyed a recovery in 2021, after experiencing a steep decline in employment in 2020. The sector’s recovery was led by a strong surge in new-home construction, which is expected to be sustained in the near term.

BuildForce Canada published its 2022–2027 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for the province today. The scenario focuses on a six-year horizon for provincial labour-market data as opposed to the 10 years studied in previous reports. The shortened forecast period allows the reports to focus more clearly on short- and long-term demand and supply pressures impacting the province’s construction sector.

“The outlook for 2022 to 2024 has strengthened with the surge in housing starts expected to be sustained near recent highs, and with the expected start of work on a key mining project and the restart of the West White Rose offshore platform,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “The longer-term outlook for the province, however, remains constrained by older age demographics, slowing population growth, and the wind down of current major projects.”

An aging workforce presents a significant challenge for Newfoundland and Labrador’s construction industry. The province is expected to lose as many as 3,380 workers (or 17% of its current labour force) to retirement between 2022 and 2027. Over the same period, it is expected to recruit just 1,800 new workers aged 30 or younger from the local population.

Although there are a number of proposed projects being tracked, with no new major projects currently scheduled to start during the forecast period, the province’s labour-supply challenge may exacerbate skills shortages, as training opportunities for younger workers will be limited.

The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program. New registrations in the province’s 13 largest construction trade programs have been falling at an average rate of 14% per year since 2016.

In 2019, the number of certified workers completing their program was less than half compared to peak levels reported in 2015. The pool of newly certified workers was further diminished in 2020 due to the impacts of COVID-19. Based on the latest Registered Apprentice Information Systems data, new registrations declined by nearly 50% to 225 new registrants in 2020, as apprenticeship training and certification was largely placed on hold.

Based on projected new registrations and completion trends, several trades are at risk of potentially undersupplying the number of new journeypersons required by 2027. Trades within this group include Heavy Equipment Operator, Industrial Mechanic (Millwright), Plumber, and Welder.

The construction industry remains focused on building a more diverse and inclusive labour force. To that end, efforts are ongoing to enhance the recruitment of individuals from groups traditionally underrepresented in the province’s construction labour force, such as women, Indigenous people, and newcomers to Canada.

In 2021, there were approximately 1,500 women employed in Newfoundland and Labrador’s construction industry; an increase of 400 over 2020. Of them, 54% worked on site, directly on construction projects, while the remainder worked off-site, primarily in administrative and management-related occupations. Of the 14,400 tradespeople employed in the industry, women made up only 6% of the total.

The Indigenous population is another underrepresented group that presents recruitment opportunities for Newfoundland and Labrador’s construction industry. In 2021, approximately 63,700 Indigenous people were employed in Canada’s construction sector, or 9% of all Indigenous people in the workforce. As the Indigenous population is the fastest growing in Canada and Indigenous workers seem predisposed to the pursuit of careers within the sector, there may be scope to further increase the recruitment of Indigenous people into the province’s construction industry.

The construction industry is also committed to the recruitment of newcomers to Canada. The province is expected to welcome an average of approximately 2,745 newcomers to Canada every year, making the immigrant population a key source of labour force growth. As of 2016, newcomers to Canada and established immigrants made up about 1% of the province’s construction workforce.

Increasing the participation rate of women, Indigenous people, and newcomers to Canada would go a long way to help Newfoundland and Labrador’s construction industry address its future labour force needs.

BuildForce Canada is a national industry-led organization that represents all sectors of Canada’s construction industry. Its mandate is to support the labour market development needs of the construction and maintenance industry. As part of these activities, BuildForce works with key industry stakeholders, including contractors, proponents of construction, labour providers, governments and training providers, to identify both demand and supply trends that will impact labour force capacity in the sector, and supports the career searches of job seekers wanting to work in the industry. BuildForce also leads programs and initiatives that support workforce upskilling, workforce productivity improvements, improvements to training modalities, human resource tools to support the adoption of industry best practices, as well as other value-added initiatives focused on supporting the industry’s labour force development needs. Visit www.buildforce.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:

Terry French
President
Construction Labour Relations Association – NL
709-753-5770

Darin King
Executive Director
Trades NL: Building Trades of Newfoundland & Labrador
709-726-4560