January 17, 2024

The Canadian Construction Landscape in 2024: A National Outlook and British Columbia Perspective

As Canada steps into 2024, the construction industry appears poised for a year of growth, echoing a positive sentiment shared in JLL's recent U.S. and Canada Construction Trends 2024 forecast. After a period of stabilization, the industry is well-positioned to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

National Construction Overview

Supply Chain and Material Prices

JLL's forecast indicates a favorable outlook for the U.S. and Canadian construction industry in 2024, fueled by robust demand and stabilized supply chains. Despite a projected slowdown in private-sector construction starts, publicly funded projects are expected to maintain stability in material prices. Electrical goods remain an exception, with demand keeping lead times long and prices rising.

Construction Activity in Canada

While Canada's construction activity is expected to slow temporarily, a potential rebound in launches is foreseen in spring 2024 if inflation decreases and debt markets stabilize. Material costs and employee wages are anticipated to rise by 3-5% and 4-6%, respectively, resulting in a total cost increase of 3-6%. Industry leaders are advised to focus on retaining talent, adopting technology, and anticipating market trends for success.

Workforce Challenges and Strategies

The construction industry in the U.S. and Canada faces challenges such as skilled labor shortages and falling productivity. The forecast emphasizes the increasing value of competency and efficiency among the workforce. Retention, upskilling, and trust-building are identified as critical elements for success in the coming year and beyond.

Scott Figler, National Research Director, Canada, at JLL, highlights that while cost pressures on materials ease, rising wages are contributing to current cost inflation. The forecast suggests that building durable partnerships with individuals possessing both technical expertise and essential soft skills is key for success.

British Columbia Construction Landscape

Optimism in Northern BC

In British Columbia, 2024 is anticipated to be a busy year for contractors, with 87% expecting it to be as busy as or busier than the previous year. Specifically, in Northern BC, 47% of contractors expect more work than in 2023. This optimism is noteworthy considering the challenges faced globally, from the COVID-19 pandemic to supply chain shocks and inflation.

Chris Gardner, President of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA), highlights the resilience of the construction sector, constituting about ten percent of BC's economy. Despite significant challenges, the industry remains strong and resilient.

Workforce Shortages and Solutions

However, this optimism is juxtaposed with a workforce challenge, as 88% of contractors report a shortage of workers. Gardner suggests two solutions – technological innovation and immigration. While technology provides a long-term solution, the immediate answer lies in immigration. Yet, the challenge is evident as only two percent of last year's 450,000 permanent immigrants entered the construction sector.

Gardner stresses the need for better understanding and addressing the skills gap. Efforts to attract skilled workers should be intensified, with a focus on high schools to promote trades as dynamic and rewarding career paths. The ICBA reports that the average construction hourly wage is expected to grow by five percent in 2024 and an additional six percent in 2025, reaching an industry average of $37.51 per hour by 2025.

In conclusion, as the construction industry charts its course in 2024, fostering international talent and addressing workforce shortages through immigration are pivotal steps toward ensuring sustained growth and resilience in the face of evolving challenges. Building a diverse and skilled workforce not only propels the industry forward but also contributes to the economic vibrancy of Canada as a whole.

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