Pandemic-induced retirements create near-term labour challenges in New Brunswick


New Brunswick’s construction market strengthened in 2021, and should reach a peak in 2022, before receding modestly through 2027.

The new labour market forecast released today by BuildForce Canada suggests that near-term demand for construction services will come in the new-home and industrial, commercial, and institutional building sectors. Residential demands will remain at or near recent highs through 2024, while the completion of major institutional projects will lower non-residential demands through 2026.

BuildForce Canada’s 2022–2027 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for New Brunswick 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 report to focus more clearly on short- and long-term demand and supply pressures impacting the province’s construction sector.

BuildForce Canada anticipates overall construction employment in New Brunswick to reach a peak in 2022 before moderating and eventually declining by an estimated 684 workers (-3.4% of the 2021 workforce) by 2027.

“As is the case in many of the Atlantic Provinces, New Brunswick’s construction labour force is challenged with peak demands now, and potentially a lower availability of workers by 2027,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “Although construction employment in the province surpassed pre-pandemic levels in 2021, labour force growth has been more sluggish. A pullback in labour force participation during the pandemic, particularly among older workers, has contributed to a decline in available workers and rates of industry unemployment that the province has not experienced since its 2011 peak in construction activity.”

New Brunswick’s construction industry will need to recruit 3,600 new workers to offset the outflow of 4,200 workers (17% of the 2021 labour force) to retirement. This challenge could be complicated by the shrinking pool of available new entrants as population growth slows and fewer youth are available to enter the labour force.

This hiring requirement could be partly addressed through the recruitment of a potential 2,710 workers under the age of 30 from the local population, but based on current analysis, a gap of some 930 workers may emerge. Addressing this gap will require a broadening of local recruitment and training efforts, including expanded recruitment of groups traditionally underrepresented in the construction industry, available skilled workers locally not presently working in the construction industry, and during peak levels of activity, drawing in available construction workers from neighbouring provinces.

The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program. Registration levels in New Brunswick’s 16 largest trade programs have fluctuated significantly over recent years. Following a period of modest growth, new registrations fell 5% in 2019 to just under 780 new registrants. In 2020, new registrations dropped by a further 40% to approximately 470 new registrants, as the COVID-19 pandemic imposed significant obstacles to the delivery of in-school training, testing, and certification.

Based on the current pace of new apprenticeship registrations and completion trends, several may be at risk of undersupplying the number of new journeypersons required by 2027: Bricklayer, Carpenter, Heavy-Duty Equipment Technician, Sheet Metal Worker, Sprinkler Fitter, 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 2,180 women employed in New Brunswick’s construction industry; a slight increase over the 2,100 employed in 2020. Of them, however, only 32% worked directly in on-site construction. As a share of the total, women represented just 3% of the 21,200 tradespeople employed in the provincial industry in 2021. That figure is unchanged from 2020.

The Indigenous population is another underrepresented group that presents recruitment opportunities for New Brunswick’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 6,600 newcomers every year through 2027. This fact could make the immigrant population a key source of labour force growth. As of 2018, newcomers and more established immigrants accounted for 2% of New Brunswick’s construction workforce.

Increasing the participation rate of women, Indigenous people, and newcomers to Canada could help New Brunswick’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 support 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:

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

John Ryan Morrison
Executive Director
Construction Association of New Brunswick
506-459-5770