Pei’s Construction Sector Faces Short-Term Recruiting Challenges, With Conditions Expected to Ease After 2026

After peaking in 2024, activity in the non-residential sector is projected to cycle down to 2029 as work on several major projects concludes. The peak reported in 2024 is significantly higher than previous highs reported in 2020 and 2021.

Construction activity in Prince Edward Island eased moderately in 2023 as the province’s residential construction sector declined from the peak levels of activity reached in 2022, while the non-residential sector continued a steady upward climb that began in 2021. Even with these changes, however, the province’s labour markets continue to experience recruiting challenges.

BuildForce Canada released its 2024–2033 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for Prince Edward Island today. It anticipates growth in both components of the industry in the short term before levels diverge. Investment levels in the residential sector are expected to increase after 2024 and to the end of the forecast. Growth is initially driven by new housing construction and later in renovation.

After peaking in 2024, activity in the non-residential sector is projected to cycle down to 2029 as work on several major projects concludes. This trend should be viewed in context, however. The peak reported in 2024 is significantly higher than previous highs reported in 2020 and 2021.

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Overall construction employment is expected to contract slightly across the forecast period. A gain of 13% above 2023 levels in residential employment will be more than offset by a contraction of just under 15% in non-residential employment.

“Although labour market conditions in PEI are strained going into our forecast period, they should return to balance in the near future, which will bring welcome relief to the industry,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “The construction sector’s efforts to hire and train workers are bearing fruit, but these activities must be sustained for the local industry to ensure future labour force sustainability.”

The province’s construction industry will need to recruit 110 additional workers through 2033. This demand is driven largely by the expected retirement of 1,570 workers (23% of the current labour force) by 2033 and combined with a small projected contraction in the overall labour force. Much of this hiring gap will be filled by the recruitment of as many as 1,440 first-time new entrants under the age of 30 from the local population.

These numbers are based on existing known demands and do not take into account public-sector initiatives to address housing affordability challenges, nor the anticipated increase in demand for construction services related to the retrofit of existing residential, industrial, commercial, and institutional buildings to accommodate the electrification of the economy. Both scenarios are addressed in separate reports to be released by BuildForce Canada at a later date.

“The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program,” says Sam Sanderson, General Manager of the Construction Association of Prince Edward Island. “Registrations in the seven largest construction trades programs in PEI reached a record high in 2022, and we are hopeful many of these individuals will continue their apprenticeship through to completion.”

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 under-represented in the province’s construction labour force, such as women, Indigenous People, and newcomers to Canada.

In 2023, there were approximately 550 women employed in Prince Edward Island’s construction industry. Of them, 48% worked on site, directly on construction projects. Women accounted for just 4% of the 6,500 tradespeople employed in Prince Edward Island in 2023.

The Indigenous population is another under-represented group that presents recruitment opportunities for Prince Edward Island’s construction industry. In 2021, Indigenous workers accounted for approximately 3% of the province’s construction labour force. That figure is more than double the share observed in 2016. It is also higher than the share of Indigenous workers represented in the overall labour force. 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 may also leverage newcomers over the coming decade to meet anticipated labour market requirements. Based on current trends, Prince Edward Island is expected to see elevated levels of immigration over the forecast period. This will make newcomers a key contributor to the industry’s labour force. In 2022, newcomers accounted for 4% of PEI’s total construction labour force. That figure is lower than the 10% reported across all industries in the province.

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.

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