Major project activity will create construction growth in Newfoundland and Labrador to 2033, but may exacerbate labour shortages

OTTAWA, March 25, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Construction and maintenance activity in Newfoundland and Labrador increased slightly in 2023 as a gain in non-residential construction investment more than offset a slight contraction in the provincial residential construction sector. The former has benefitted from a series of projects in engineering construction, and strong activity in industrial, commercial, and institutional buildings construction, while the latter has been curtailed by rising interest rates.

BuildForce Canada released its 2024–2033 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward report for Newfoundland and Labrador today. The outlook calls for growth to cycle moderately lower in the residential sector, while non-residential activity to grow throughout most of the decade. The start of work on the Bay du Nord project in 2028 will elevate activity to the end of the forecast period.

These factors combine to drive non-residential employment to a peak of 10% above 2023 levels by 2031, followed by a slight decline thereafter, based on currently known project activities. These factors combine to push overall employment 7% higher by 2033 over 2023 levels. Residential employment, meanwhile, is largely sustained at 2023 levels until it contracts towards the end of the forecast. When measured against 2023 levels, employment may decline by as much as 9% lower by 2033.

“The construction and maintenance industry in Newfoundland and Labrador is well positioned to withstand any forthcoming contractions created by rising interest rates and a slowing global economy in the short term,” says Bill Ferreira, Executive Director of BuildForce Canada. “Its housing sector should continue to grow given its relative affordability, while activity in the non-residential sector is poised to rise to a peak with work on the West White Rose offshore platform and the projected start of the Equinor Bay du Nord project.”

An aging workforce could present a significant challenge for the province’s construction industry. An estimated 5,900 workers, or 28% of its 2023 labour force, is expected to retire by 2033. Over the same period, the industry is expected to recruit 4,000 new entrants aged 30 or younger from the local population. Unless anticipated recruitment is increased, the industry could face a deficit of 2,400 workers by 2033.

Note that this analysis is based on existing known demands and does 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.

“Newfoundland and Labrador’s construction sector is poised to see growth in output across the BuildForce Canada scenario period, thanks to a number of planned major projects,” says Terry French, President of the Construction Labour Relations Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. “Going forward, the industry must sustain its recruiting efforts to ensure it can fill the gaps created by growth and retiring workers.”

The development of skilled tradespersons in the construction industry takes years, and often requires participation in a provincial apprenticeship program.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, new registrations in the 11 largest construction trade programs were declining. Fewer new journeypersons were entering the workforce relative to the levels observed over the past decade as a result. Following this trend, completions were also trending down leading into 2020, albeit at a slower pace. With new registrations declining at a faster rate than trade employment, there is a risk for an insufficient number of newly certified journeypersons to sustain workforce requirements over the long term.

“The construction industry remains focused on building a more diverse and inclusive labour force. To that end, efforts are ongoing to enhance the recruitment and training of youth and greater numbers of women and Indigenous People into the trades, as well as other groups traditionally under-represented in the construction sector. Increasing the participation rate of women, Indigenous People, and newcomers in the construction labour force will go a long way to help Newfoundland and Labrador’s construction industry address its future labour force needs,” says Darin King, Executive Director of the Building Trades of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In 2023, there were approximately 2,710 women employed in Newfoundland and Labrador’s construction industry. Of them, 29% worked on site, directly on construction projects. Of the 16,900 tradespeople employed in the industry, women made up 5% of the total workforce.

The Indigenous population also represents potential recruitment opportunities for the construction industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2021, Indigenous workers accounted for approximately 9% of the province’s construction labour force. This figure was unchanged from 2016 and matches the share of Indigenous People represented in the overall labour force. As the Indigenous population is the fastest growing in Canada, and as Indigenous workers seem predisposed to the pursuit of careers within the sector, the industry may need to dedicate further efforts to increasing the recruitment of Indigenous People.

The construction industry is also committed to the recruitment of newcomers to Canada. Based on current trends, the province 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 made up about 1% of the province’s construction workforce. That figure is notably lower than the share (6%) in the overall provincial labour force.

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

For further information, contact Bill Ferreira, Executive Director, BuildForce Canada, at 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, and was funded in part by the Government of Canada's Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program.

For local industry reaction to this latest BuildForce Canada report, please contact:

Terry French 
Construction Labour Relations Association – NL 

Darin King 
Executive Director 
Trades NL: Building Trades of Newfoundland & Labrador