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The Outlook for Ontario's Construction Sector

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The Outlook for Ontario's Construction Sector

Information and news on the construction sectorThe Outlook for Ontario's Construction Sector

The construction industry in Ontario is poised for continued growth over the next several years, driven by robust activity in both the residential and non-residential sectors, according to the latest forecasts from BuildForce Canada. “Construction is a key contributor to Canada’s gross domestic product, and an employer of approximately one out of every 13 working Canadians. Employment has increased by about 80% since 2002, and now counts about 1.5 million people,” says Sean Strickland, Chair of BuildForce Canada. “With further growth projected across the forecast period, the challenge before our sector is how to manage labour force pressures.”

What's the Future Direction of the Construction Industry in Ontario, Canada?

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Overall Employment Outlook

According to BuildForce Canada's 10-year forecast, construction and maintenance employment in Ontario is expected to rise to a peak in 2028, increasing by nearly 8% above 2022 levels. By 2032, employment is projected to remain 5% above 2022 levels.

According to Bill Ferreira, “Its challenge will be recruiting workers to address the demands created by such growth. With both the residential and non-residential sectors poised to grow well into the late 2020s, and many workers exiting the industry due to retirement, many trades and occupations could experience strained conditions. What’s more, opportunities for interregional mobility will be limited as most of the province’s regional markets will see high levels of demand.”

Addressing Labour Challenges: What Will Happen to Company Recruitment?

Despite the positive outlook, the construction industry in Ontario faces labor challenges. The aging workforce and the departure of older workers during the COVID-19 pandemic have created a skills and experience gap that cannot be easily filled by new hires.

 Construction companies also face the added challenge of an aging workforce. When combined with employment increases created by growth, the expected retirement of more than 89,300 workers (19% of the current labour force) will increase overall construction firms hiring requirements to 141,200 over the forecast period.

Ferreira said with many workers exiting the industry due to retirement, many trades and occupations could experience strained conditions.

But with labour force demand expected to be high across Ontario, interregional mobility will be limited.

Over the next decade, the provincial construction companies are expected to recruit approximately 105,700 new entrants under the age of 30 from within the province.

“This leaves a projected gap of 35,500 workers that will need to be filled from a variety of sources outside the existing labour force to meet demands,” the report stated.

To address these challenges, businesses are focusing on recruitment initiatives and skilled trades training programs, such as the Skills Development Fund, which provides free skilled trades training to women and young people

The residential market will be supported by strong migration into the province, particularly in major urban centres like the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Additionally, the renovation and maintenance sector is projected to grow steadily, further bolstering residential construction employment.

Residential Construction: Building Trends

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The residential construction sector in Ontario experienced a temporary slowdown in 2023 and 2024 due to rising interest rates and construction costs. However, the outlook remains positive for construction firms, with employment in this sector expected to rebound and reach a peak in 2030 before moderating towards 2032. 

The sector – and the new housing component in particular – returns to growth between 2025 and 2028 as wages and incomes adjust to prices before they trend down slightly to the end of the decade. Renovation expenditures, meanwhile, are projected to grow continuously through 2033. These factors bring residential employment to a peak in 2028 before it slows to the end of the forecast period. “Ontario’s construction and maintenance sector is poised to see significant growth into the middle years of the forecast period,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada.

Non-Residential Construction Boom

The non-residential construction sector in Ontario is projected to be the primary driver of growth across the forecast period. Employment in this sector is expected to peak in 2027, reaching levels 16% higher than in 2022, fuelled by a multitude of major projects across the province.

“There is a massive project pipeline in Ontario that is fuelling positivity about business prospects,” stated Ontario Construction Secretariat (OCS) chief executive officer Robert Bronk. “Power generation, transit and healthcare facilities are leading the list of projects currently under construction or slated for construction over the next few years in every region of the province.”

Regionally, prospects are most positive in Northern Ontario, in response to increased mining, construction and institutional projects. “On the non-residential side, we’re tracking over $180 billion worth of projects over the next decade,” said Ferreira, noting every region in the province is showing strength. “That’s known projects. There’s a number of other projects that we haven’t built into the forecast because we don’t have a timeline yet.

How Building Technology is Evolving

Like many sectors, the construction industry is evolving with the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) technology.  For example, in Burlington, AI is being utilised for two pilot projects.

Firstly, it evaluates zoning bylaws for industrial-commercial buildings, ensuring compliance with regulations. Secondly, it assesses architectural drawings against Ontario Building Code rules for residential and commercial structures. These initiatives streamline regulatory compliance and improve construction quality in the province.

Overview of Key Projects in Ontario Regions:

Eastern Ontario’s construction market is dominated by several major projects across the engineering-construction and the industrial, commercial, and institutional building sector. Key projects currently underway include the light rail line in Ottawa, high levels of investment in roads, highways, and bridges, and an extensive portfolio of work being driven by the federal government. Later years call for the addition of major hospital projects in Ottawa and Kingston, as well as sustained activity across public-administration buildings.

  • Light rail transit and subway expansions in major cities like Toronto and Ottawa

  • Ongoing nuclear refurbishment projects at Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation

  • Major healthcare and institutional projects in various regions

The Greater Toronto Area’s construction market continues to be driven by a series of large-scale public-transportation, nuclear refurbishment, new hospital, and other government building-restoration projects. These combine to create strained labour market conditions across most of the region’s non-residential trades and occupations in the coming few years.

The construction market in Northern Ontario is heavily influenced by activity in the mining and utility sectors. Several major electric-transmission projects reached completion in 2023, causing non-residential activity from local construction companies to decline slightly. The outlook calls for another contraction in 2024 before growth resumes between 2025 and 2027 with the start of work on key projects such as the Thunder Bay Correctional Complex and the Weeneebayko Hospital.

In conclusion, the construction industry in Ontario is poised for continued growth over the next several years, driven by robust activity in both the residential and non-residential sectors. However, addressing labor shortages and attracting skilled workers will be crucial to meeting the increasing demand for construction services across the province.


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Last modified 2024-06-11

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