Near-term employment gains in PEI will be offset by slowdowns through 2027


Construction employment in Prince Edward Island enjoyed a recovery in 2021 and should continue to growth through 2022 on the strength of increased residential and non-residential demands. Activity will moderate after 2023 and through 2027, however, as key projects wind down and labour markets will return to more balanced conditions.

BuildForce Canada’s labour market forecast for Prince Edward Island projects that employment in the province’s construction and maintenance industry will gain 400 workers (7%) through the end of 2022 before retreating moderately (3.6% below 2021 levels) through 2027.

BuildForce Canada released its 2022–2027 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for Prince Edward Island today. The forecast 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.

“Construction employment in Prince Edward Island will peak in 2022 as the province’s housing market continues its recent strong performance and the non-residential sector ramps back up with increased institutional and engineering investments,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “Labour markets will return to more balanced conditions between 2023 and 2027 as the province’s housing market cools off and most active non-residential projects wind down.”

Prince Edward Island’s construction industry has adapted to higher sustained levels of activity in recent years by depending on the mobility of skilled trades from outside of the province and by the scaling up of local recruitment and training capacity. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a sharp decline in the participation of older workers in the province’s construction labour force, while unemployment rates have fallen to historic lows.

The major challenge currently facing the industry is the immediate requirements for large numbers of skilled and experienced workers across almost all of its key trades and occupations, which cannot be met solely by new or young, inexperienced workers.

This short-term rise in labour demands is likely to complicate existing recruiting challenges. The province’s construction industry will need to recruit 975 additional workers through 2027 to keep pace with labour force demands and to replace almost 950 retiring workers, or 14% of its 2021 construction labour force.

Although as many as 855 workers under the age of 30 from the local population could enter the construction labour force through 2027, an estimated gap of some 120 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. Registrations in Prince Edward Island’s seven largest construction trades programs increased by more than 70% over the six-year period between 2013 and 2019. The latest Registered Apprentice Information Systems data suggests new registrations slowed in 2020, but despite the training challenges created by COVID-19, the province managed to push forward with ongoing apprenticeship development throughout the year.

Based on the current pace of new apprenticeship registrations and completion trends, only the Carpenter trade is projected to be at risk of possibly undersupplying the number of required journeypersons by 2027.

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 850 women employed in Prince Edward Island’s construction industry; a slight increase over the 790 employed in 2020. Of them, 42% worked on site, directly on construction projects, while the remaining 58% worked off site, primarily in administrative and management-related occupations. Women accounted for just 6% of the 6,000 tradespeople employed in Prince Edward Island in 2021, compared with 7% of the total in 2020.

The Indigenous population is another underrepresented group that presents recruitment opportunities for Prince Edward Island’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 2,800 newcomers to Canada every year through 2027. This fact could make the immigrant population a key source of labour force growth. As of 2017, newcomers and more established immigrants made up about 3% of the province’s construction workforce.

Increasing the participation rate of women, Indigenous people, and new Canadians could help Prince Edward Island’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:

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