March 25, 2024

Weekly EconMinute—Construction Job Vacancy Rate

In this week’s EconMinute, we’re talking about the construction job vacancy rate in Alberta.

As highlighted recently in The Owl by ATB Financial, Alberta is experiencing a shortage of construction workers, as is the rest of Canada. Things need to be built and people need to build them, but there’s a discrepancy between the two. The job vacancy rate is a measure of this—how many available positions are going unfilled in a particular industry.

Canada and Alberta are also experiencing a housing shortage, in part a result of the shortage of workers in the field. To be sure, there’s more to the construction industry than just residential construction, or the construction of buildings in general, but the effects of a high vacancy rate in this industry are far-reaching. There are many well-paying, stable, and fulfilling jobs waiting to be filled in construction and the skilled trades.

We wanted to see how construction job vacancies in Alberta compared to other provinces. We did this by looking at the most recently published construction vacancy rates (Q3 2023) and comparing them to the rates from five years earlier (Q3 2019).

Here’s what we found:

  • Alberta had the largest spike in construction job vacancies over the last five years compared to other provinces, with Saskatchewan close behind.
  • Alberta had the second lowest vacancy rate in Q3 2019, but the second highest in Q3 2023.
  • All provinces except Quebec have seen increased vacancy rates in construction over that period. Quebec also has the lowest rate of all provinces in 2023.
  • British Columbia’s vacancy rate is highest; however, with major construction projects like the TMX and LNG Canada approaching completion, the shortages are likely to drop significantly.

As for what’s driving this job vacancy trend in construction, we’re not able to cover it all here. However, some of the primary factors appear to be rapid population growth in cities like Calgary, an unfortunate stigma surrounding careers in the trades, and decreasing enrolments in trade schools and apprenticeship programs (which look to be recovering slightly). Retirement is approaching for many construction workers, meaning that the intake of young people into the industry is increasingly important.

Immigration has an important role to play in filling these labour shortages, an issue we have explored here. It’s also why the federal government exempted construction jobs from its recently announced rule changes for admitting temporary foreign workers into Canada.

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